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Walter Jones, veteran North Carolina congressman, dies at 76

Walter Jones, a 13-term Republican congressman from North Carolina who made a name for himself by becoming an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq after initially supporting the invasion, died Sunday afternoon, his office announced. He died on his 76th birthday.

In a statement, his office praised Jones as a "man of the people" and a champion of the men and women serving in the military. 

"Congressman Jones will long be remembered for his honesty, faith and integrity. He was never afraid to take a principled stand. He was known for his independence, and widely admired across the political spectrum," the office wrote Sunday night. "Some may not have agreed with him, but all recognized that he did what he thought was right."

Jones, whose health had deteriorated after he fell and broke his hip, had been in hospice care since late January. 

Fallen Soldiers Congressmans Letters
Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, poses for a portrait in his office on Capitol Hill, on Wed., Oct. 25, 2017, in Washington. AP

After initially running for a North Carolina congressional seat as a Democrat in 1992, Jones was first elected to Congress in 1994 during the so-called "Republican revolution" led by Newt Gingrich. Although he was a reliable Republican vote for most of his nearly 24-year tenure, Jones gained notoriety for sometimes breaking with his party. Most recently, he did not support the 2017 GOP bill to overhaul the nation's tax system — one of President Trump's few legislative achievements with a Republican-controlled Congress. 

In 2002, like most members of his party, he voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq during the administration of President George W. Bush. But he later expressed deep regret and vowed to atone for his support of the war. About 4,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died as a result of the conflict.

After his metamorphosis, Jones became a staunch opponent of U.S. military engagement abroad and took part in bipartisan efforts to curtail the White House's power to deploy troops on foreign soil, including in Syria.