Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.), a former House Armed Services Committee (HASC) member and longtime advocate of the U.S. military, died Feb. 10 on his 76th birthday.

Jones’ passing was confirmed by his office Sunday. “Congressman Jones was a man of the people,” the statement said. “He was a champion for our men and women in uniform and their families, always mindful of their service and sacrifice.”

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Coast Guard official
U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, Jr., R-N.C., and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Meredith Austin, commander, 5th Coast Guard District, discuss details of the Feb. 9, 1905, rescue of the six-man crew from the schooner Sarah D. J. Rawson off Cape Lookout at Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center on Harkers Island, North Carolina, Feb. 11, 2017. Jones and Austin were part of a ceremony during which they presented replicas of Gold Lifesaving Medals to the descendants of the U.S. Life Saving-Servicemen who carried out the rescue. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer John D. Miller/Released)

Jones, who served in the North Carolina National Guard for four years, first entered Congress in 1995. He was most recently a member of the HASC’s Tactical Air and Land Forces and Military Personnel Subcommittees, although he had been on medical leave since before the start of the 116th Congress. He entered hospice care after breaking his hip in mid-January.

His district included Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, and he sponsored multiple pieces of legislation advocating for Marines, including an annual bill to redesignate the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps, which he first introduced in 2001.

Jones is perhaps most well-known for opposing the Iraq War after originally voting in favor of the war in 2002. He expressed regret at his original vote of support in multiple interviews over the years, and backed congressional measures to withdraw troops from the wars in the Middle East.

He recently was a co-signer of an October 2018 bipartisan bill that would ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the wake of the murder of Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, which was spearheaded by Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) (Defense Daily, Oct. 23, 2018). A decade before, he co-sponsored then-Rep Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.)’s bill to prohibit the sale of Boeing [BA]-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMS) to the Gulf country (Defense Daily, Jan. 16, 2008).

He was the sole Republican co-sponsor on a bill to prohibit the U.S. government from issuing the first nuclear strike in war (Exchange Monitor, Jan. 30).

In December, he called for a fiscally responsible compromise to fund the U.S.-Mexico border wall amid the partial government shutdown.

“Whatever compromise is reached, it should be paid for without adding to the deficit or the debt,” he said in a Dec. 28 press release. “Improving security on the southern border is essential, and we need a fiscally responsible plan to pay for it. … Options could include cutting other wasteful federal spending.  Foreign aid and the war in Afghanistan would be good places to start.  As a wealthy man, the president might consider pledging some of his own funds as well.  Whatever it takes, just so long as we don’t add to the debt that is bankrupting our great country.”

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Jones “a gentleman who treated his colleagues on both sides of the aisle with kindness, decency and compassion” in a Monday statement. “He worked always in a spirit of bipartisanship to build a better future for his constituents and the American people, earning him the deep respect of all those who were fortunate enough to know and work with him.  His relentless work on behalf of our men and women in uniform, veterans, military families and caregivers honored our American values and strengthened our country.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement he was “saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Walter Jones.”

“We may have stood on opposite sides of the aisle in the House, but I always respected him for his amiability, his candor, and his love of country,” Hoyer said. “Over the years, I watched him take difficult votes with conviction, standing up for what he believed to be right. That’s because he was a patriot and a man of principle, and it’s why he had so many friends on both sides of the aisle. That’s why the people of North Carolina’s coastal communities sent him back to Congress again and again.”

HASC Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said in a Monday statement that Jones “has left an indelible imprint on the work of the House Armed Services Committee and on his country. … During the twenty-four years he served in Congress, he was a tireless advocate for American servicemembers, someone who was always willing to put principle above partisanship, and a wonderful colleague.”

HASC Ranking Member and former Chair Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement Monday, “Walter Jones’ service to his country will be remembered for his dogged advocacy for his constituents, his love for the Marine Corps, his willingness to ask tough – even unpopular- questions, and his unflinching patriotism. He will be missed.”

Many of Jones’ colleagues on HASC paid tribute to him on Monday, including Reps. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), and John Garamendi (D-Calif.).

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) ordered all state and U.S. flags at state facilities to be lowered to half-mast on Monday in tribute. Jones will lie in repose Feb. 13 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Peter Catholic Church in Greenville, North Carolina, and the public is welcome to come pay respects. A public funeral is scheduled for Feb. 14, 1:30 p.m., at the same church.