WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A longtime member of North Carolina’s congressional delegation, who briefly represented part of southeastern North Carolina, has died.
According to a release from his office, Walter Jones died this afternoon in Greenville. He was 76.
“Congressman Jones was a man of the people,” the statement read. “With a kind heart and the courage of his convictions, he dedicated his life to serving his Savior and to standing up for Americans who needed a voice. He was a champion for our men and women in uniform and their families, always mindful of their service and sacrifice.”
Jones had not voted in the US House for several months after getting sick last fall. In December Jones was granted a leave of absence until the end of the congressional session. His office said he had plans to return Jan. 3, when the new Congress began.
“Congressman Jones will long be remembered for his honesty, faith and integrity,” the statement from his office said. “He was never afraid to take a principled stand. He was known for his independence, and widely admired across the political spectrum. Some may not have agreed with him, but all recognized that he did what he thought was right.
“He will be sorely missed.”
Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement this evening about Jones’s dead that read, “I am grateful for the life and service of my longtime friend Congressman Walter Jones Jr. He was a public servant who was true to his convictions and who will be missed.”
NCGOP Chair Robin Hayes also issued a statement.
“Walter Jones was a man of decency, honor, and upstanding moral character,” Hayes said. “He and I used to travel together back and forth from North Carolina when I had the privilege of serving alongside him in Congress. Jones’ legacy will undoubtedly be the unequivocal advocacy he put forth for the men and women who serve in this country’s armed forces, and not just those who lived in his district, but across the nation. There was no better champion for eastern North Carolina than Walter Jones. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”
Jones, of Farmville, first won election to the 3rd District seat his father had held in 1994 after switching to the Republican Party. He and Sen. Richard Burr, who was also elected to the House that year, were tied as the longest-serving members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation.
From 2013 until 2016, the 3rd District, which runs from the Virginia line to Onslow County, was redrawn to include part of Pender and New Hanover counties before it was changed again after challenges to the state’s congressional map.
Jones’s death leaves two of North Carolina’s 13 congressional seats empty. The 9th District, which stretches from Bladen County toward Charlotte, is still up in the air pending an investigation into absentee ballots.