North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones dies at 76

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His office confirmed that he died on 10 February, his 76th birthday.

Jones had battled a series of ailments in recent years and was granted a leave of absence from Congress late last year after missing a number of House votes.

Jones was a political maverick unafraid to buck his own party. He, however, regretted it later and not only wrote to the families of the USA service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan but also joined with anti-war opponents in trying to bring troops home.

Mr Jones was a keen supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and pushed for the name change in protest against France's opposition to the war.

"I did not do what I should have done to read and find out whether Bush was telling us the truth about Saddam being responsible for 9/11 and having weapons of mass destruction", Jones told a reporter in 2015.

"If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn't have supported the resolution" to go to war, Jones said in 2005. For this - especially his reversal on Iraq - he was pilloried by many of his fellow Republicans; the GOP even tried to unseat him in primaries to no avail. He ultimately signed well over 11,000 letters to the families of dead troops, describing that as a penance of sorts.

"For me, it's a sacred responsibility that I have to communicate my condolences to a family", Jones said. His office said he had plans to return January 3, when the new Congress began.

Cooper has not yet set the dates for those elections, which must include at least 45 days for absentee voting, according to federal law under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

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Jones, who had just begun his 13th term in the House of Representatives, was a fairly reliable constitutionalist, with a lifetime score of 81 percent on The New American's Freedom Index.

"Some may not have agreed with him, but all recognized that he did what he thought was right", the statement added.

"It's absolutely about principle", he said. "Congressman Jones will long be remembered for his honesty, faith and integrity".

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a release that Jones" "relentless work on behalf of our men and women in uniform, veterans, military families and caregivers honored our American values and strengthened our country'.

"Congressman Jones represented the best in North Carolina politics". He first ran for Congress in 1992 as a Democrat, attempting to fill the seat of his father Walter Jones Sr., who served in Congress for over 25 years, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.

Jones became a fierce critic of foreign interventionism under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, opposing USA involvement in Libya, Syria, and Yemen and calling for an exit strategy from Afghanistan. He became a Republican and was sent to Washington two years later.

Joe Anne Jones and Walter Jones lived in his hometown of Farmville, North Carolina. The school has since been renamed Barton College. He served in the North Carolina National Guard and helped lead his family business before running for office.

Gov. Roy Cooper mourned Jones' passing in a Sunday evening statement.