FARMVILLE – To say that North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones is one of a kind is no embellishment. Over the better part of the last quarter-century, Jones has represented North Carolina’s Third Congressional District with dignity, class, and an all too often rare commitment to principles over party. That has earned him loyal supporters and enemies along the way. It also earned him a reputation as one of the nicest guys on Capitol Hill and one of the fiercest defenders of what he believed to be right, and right for his district.
Sunday, February 10, is Jones’ birthday. He will be 76 years old.
He will be turning a year older under the care of hospice workers. After missing several weeks of votes starting in the summer of 2018 due to an undisclosed illness, Jones took a leave of absence from congress to get well. In January he took a fall in his home and broke his hip. He was moved to hospice care later that month in an unfortunate turn of events.
As his family, friends, and supporters hope and pray for his condition to improve, we’d like to wish him a happy and healthy birthday.
I grew up in Jones’ district, being simply ‘Congressman Jones’ for as long as I can remember. He visited my childhood home with former Reagan advisor Edwin Meese, a fundraiser for his first re-election. I distinctly remember my father telling me that ‘He is one of the good ones.’
It is a cliche for politicians to act one way on their way into office, only to become corrupted and increasingly unrecognizable the long their political career endures. Jones, though, has had a consistency of character from his days as a Democrat in the N.C. General Assembly in the 1980s, to his nearly 25 year tenure as a Republican on Capitol Hill.
One may find points of disagreement on this policy or that position, but Jones has never left his constituents wondering if he’d succumb to the prototypical pitfalls of assuming power. Instead, he, from the outset, demonstrated a willingness to project his principles in situations in which most politicians would conform to consensus.
He switched parties, from Democrat to Republican, in the 1990s after it became apparent that the Democratic platform was leaving the pro-life, social conservative behind. He used the Democrats’ shift further to the Left to his advantage in winning his first congressional election. Jones opponent, incumbent Rep. Martin Lancaster (D), had helped President Bill Clinton raise taxes and was photographed jogging with him, to which Jones successfully directed the conservative Third District’s attention.
He stood against abortion, same-sex marriage, big government, and reckless spending. Values the Third District were proud he was upholding in Washington, D.C.
He has, somewhat famously, favored being a ‘workhorse, not a show horse.’ He’s worked, without much fanfare, to reduce wasteful spending and treat military veterans as the heroes that they are; He fought for legislation to protect the beauty and history of the North Carolina coast; and, laudably, to clear the names of multiple wrongfully accused military service members.
After supporting the Iraq War, Jones had a change of heart after recognizing the unjustified damage a foreign war can have on the families of fallen soldiers. He has spent every week since writing letters to such families, offering condolences, and seeking to atone for risking the lives of soldiers in what are often scenarios unwarranted by the core definitions of national security.
His devotion to veterans was matched by his devotion to opposing the age-old practice of Washington spending money that they didn’t have, and would have to take from future generations. He was a Deficit Hawk’s Deficit Hawk, taking the issue so seriously that he even opposed tax cuts when their fiscal scoring pointed to increased deficits. Whether one agrees, or not, Jones was committed to the principles.
In recent election cycles Jones has faced some of the stiffest primary challenges of his career. More Establishment, ‘team players’ wanted to unseat him. Challengers that billed themselves as more loyal to the conservative cause tried to succeed him.
However, Jones persisted, perhaps because the Third District at large realized that they had something special in his representation. Even if he bucked the party, or didn’t follow the consensus platform; even if he opposed tax cuts, or strong foreign policies stances as a Republican; he did so out of a clear and delineated value system that his constituents could rely on. He did it with dignity, integrity, and good character.
His faults from this or that perspective notwithstanding, he is one of the good ones.
Eastern North Carolina deserves nothing less.
Happy birthday Congressman Jones.