A Farewell To Walter Jones

It is with the greatest sadness that I have to post the death of Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., died Sunday in Greenville, N.C., Jones was one of my former clients when I represented Democratic and Republican members challenging the Libyan war. I spent many lunches and conversations with Walter through the years. I have never met a member of Congress who was more honest and earnest in trying to serve the public. He was an incredibly self-effacing man who felt guilt for not being able to stop the many foreign wars. As a representative with a large military district, Jones was crushed by the deaths or wounding of young men and women in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots. He was 76.

Walter fell at home on January 14th and broke his hip. He underwent surgery in Greenville but was in hospice after the surgery.

Jones was the son of former U.S. representative Walter B. Jones Sr. (1913–1992). He served in the North Carolina National Guard and served five terms in the North Carolina House of Representatives as a Democrat. He followed his father in winning a seat in Congress as a Democrat in 1992. He actually ran for Congress as a Democrat but lost in the primary to Eva Clayton. He then switched parties and ran as a Republican in the 3rd District. He beat the incumbent 53%–47%.

Jones had a change of heart over the Iraq War (which he voted for) and would often speak to me about his sense of guilt in voting for the war. He felt betrayed by the Bush Administration and regularly spent time at VA hospitals and with returning wounded military personnel. He became a leading anti-war voice in Congress and a stalwart advocate for Congress to carry out its constitutional authority in declaring wars (rather than approve open-ended authorizations).

He increasingly confronted the Republican leadership, particularly on its blind support for wars. Jones called on President Bush to apologize for “lying” to the public and Congress to secure the authorization for the Iraq War.

He repeatedly tried to withdraw the authorization and stop new authorizations for foreign wars. His office entrance showed the pictures of the fallen soldiers.

In a city that where hypocrisy and duplicity are the norm, Jones was an exception. He was genuine in his desire to do good for people. In private conversations, he would often get emotional about the guilt that he felt for young men and women lost in the Iraq War. He was deeply religious and sought redemption in fighting against our acceptance perpetual wars and interventions. He was a good man and, even more rare in this town, an honest man.

Most people were not familiar with Walter Jones but they just lost one of a small minority of members with a true conscience. He was not able to rein in our expansive military operations abroad, but he tried. He tried harder than any member I have ever seen. He did everything he could to force the Executive Branch to be accountable to the public and to Congress. He fought against his own party in seeking reforms and faced primary opponents sent against him to silence his voice.

There is an old expression that nothing is rarer “than an honest man in Congress.” Jones was that rarity and the Congress is poorer for his passing.

I can only imagine the pride of his father if he saw the courage and principle that defined his son’s tenure in Congress. He saw lies and confronted them. He saw suffering and tried to relieve it. He saw a flawed world and tried to make it better. He was often a lone voice in an indifferent Congress but his voice to true and strong and unafraid.

Rest in peace Walter.

25 thoughts on “A Farewell To Walter Jones”

  1. Congressman Jones and Ron Paul were close personal friends in Congress, even though they strongly disagreed on tariffs, drug prohibition, noninterventionism generally, and a host of other issues. That’s what it means to be friends: you like and care about someone as a person, not as an echo for your own views or foibles. Mr Jones was a great man because he was a good man, and never became “of” Washington DC. In fact he lived his whole in the same small North Carolina town.

  2. This is absurd x 2: “There are merely people who complain about the use of force without attempting to assess what generates actual equilibria out of which order is derived.”

    And “it’s a reasonable wager ” that the “absurd” one has never been in the military, never fought in a war…, but loves to spout from the comfort of the old armchair…

  3. From the linked obituary, below:

    “Sometimes he phrased his objections in more colorful language. “Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney,” Jones said in 2013.”

    “I am at a point where I just wonder: Are we in the final days of a great nation?” he told Yeoman. “I’m thinking that, going back to the Bible, we’re on the verge of Revelations.”


      1. that’s what you call any right wing peace advocate. regrettable you are so negative. and yes I understand now the term so many times by which you refer to former representative from Texas Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Paul is at least thought provoking and interesting, even if he is a little eccentric.

        the worst thing I will say about deceased Mr Jones is that once he denounced french fries for being associate with the french. Who of course call them pommes frites and do indeed serve them up aplenty in Parisian restaurants. But he wanted to call them freedom fries which at the time I thought was a foolish idea. There is a kind of latent anti-Continental bigotry which lingers in America and that echoed it.

        1. There is no such thing as a ‘peace advocate’. There are merely people who complain about the use of force without attempting to assess what generates actual equilibria out of which order is derived. The mentality of the paulbot crew diverges in some respect from that of the red-haze crew, but their contribution to public discourse is similarly nugatory.

          1. “…their contribution to public discourse is similarly nugatory.”

            …as is yours.

          2. I had a Catholic education which included some humble theological instruction on Saint Augustine’s just war theory and academic conversation at the undergraduate level about how it might apply or not to various episodes in American history. I had in a later phase of my formal education a lengthy conversation about various legal aspects of war.

            I read a lot of this and that about war on my own. Over time I formed my own critical opinions and honed them over time. Mostly before I ever heard of Ron Paul. But I welcome his contribution to criticism of American war adventures.

            You habitually denigrate what you call the “Paulbots” and today assess its contribution to public discourse as nugatory. Which means nothing.

            Perhaps underestimate this. A lot of people liked Trump and voted for him because he was the most “peace and diplomacy” inclined among the Republican primary field. That was not a nugatory effect it was actually a big one. And one that related to his recent executive action in Syria to withdraw. Not nothing the way I read it.

      2. And anyone should care what you think?

        (You are “absurd” and just another random person on a blog.)

        1. Fishwings, they’ll care as much or as little as they’re inclined. Same is true in regard to the remarks of anyone else who participates here.

  4. I’m sure his family will miss him, and that’s enough.

    If he was passably honest (above and beyond a certain irreducible quantum of artifice that you have in public life) it’s a loss. If he wasn’t on the take, it’s a loss. He was a legacy pol who spent too much of his adult life in public office. Cannot say much for his signatures other than his allergy to public sector borrowing.

  5. Mr. Turley: This is a well written article and condolence for an exceptional human. I live in his District. I have never seen a better person serving in our Congress or any public office. I was hurt when I saw the news last night that he had died. I am brought up this morning after seeing the Turley article here. America lost the best man in government in the whole nation.

    1. In my prayers: May his soul escape the metaphysical space and transcend into the realm of the divine.

  6. An honest and forthright man…surrounded by a cesspool. I wish I had known the man. RIP Mr. Jones.

  7. Another one of my great guys gone, oh well, the battle I’ve planed for the morn is still on.

    RIP Walter Jones.

    1. Dr Stanley,

      RIP Walter Jones.

      Hello again, I still attempt to continue our great works. \\
      the last year was especially rough, yet
      i remained standing & moving forward.

  8. Thank you Prof. Turley for this wonderful and uplifting article. RIP, Walter Jones.

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