US Congressman. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in the US House of Representatives from Texas's 2nd district for 12 consecutive terms from January 1973 until January 1997. He is best remembered for his efforts in leading the US Congress into supporting Operation Cyclone, the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) covert operation to assist the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan (December 1979 to February 1989). Born the oldest of two children, his father was employed as an accountant for a local timber company. After graduating from Trinity High School in 1951, he briefly attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas before receiving an appointment to attend the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. In 1956 he graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering and received an commission as an ensign. He served in the US Navy until 1960, with a sea tour on a destroyer as a gunnery officer and shore duty at the Pentagon, Washington DC, in intelligence. In 1960 he ran for Texas state representative on the Democratic ticket from his home district and was elected, serving for 12 years. In 1972 he ran for US Congress from the 2nd district of Texas and won the seat, subsequently being re-elected for eleven additional terms. During his time in Congress, he accomplished the designation of the Big Thicket in southeast Texas as a National Preserve, served on the House Appropriations Committee, supported pro-choice legislation, helped to pass the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), sought to increase the minimum wage as well as increasing Medicare and Medicaid funding for the elderly, underprivileged, and veterans, and developed a strong relationship with Israel. In 1980 he was appointed to the House Ethics Committee to help protect US Representative John Murtha, Jr. from investigations during the Abscam scandal. The same year he became acutely interested in the plight of Afghan refugees leaving the Soviet-occupied Afghanistan's communist regime and began working with the CIA to provide US assistance to the local resistance fighters (Mujahideen) in terms of anti-aircraft and other military weapons, even going so far as to negotiate back-room deals to accomplish his objectives. For his successful efforts, he received the Honored Colleague Award by the CIA, the first civilian to receive the award. Also during his congressional tenure, he became well-known for his extravagant and flamboyant lifestyle, earning the nickname "Good Time Charlie" due to his extramarital affairs and excessive partying. He became a function alcoholic and suffered from severe bouts of depression and insomnia. Advised by doctors that his drinking was contributing to his heart problems, he finally was forced to quit. In 1996 elected not to run for another congressional term and retired in January 1997 to become a lobbyist for Pakistan. His exploits were detailed in the 2003 book "Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History" by George Crile, and in the 2007 film adaptation "Charlie Wilson's War" that starred Tom Hanks as Wilson. He died from a cardiopulmonary arrest at the age of 76.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
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