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Charlie Wilson, former Soviet nemesis and congressman, dies at 76

In July 1987, U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Texas, on a white horse, rides with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan. He secured military funding for the resistance fighters opposing the Soviet Union.

Associated Press (1987)

In July 1987, U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Texas, on a white horse, rides with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan. He secured military funding for the resistance fighters opposing the Soviet Union.

DALLAS — Charlie Wilson, the former congressman from Texas whose funding of Afghanistan's mujahedeen was chronicled in the 2007 movie Charlie Wilson's War, died Wednesday (Feb. 10, 2010). He was 76.

Mr. Wilson died of cardiopulmonary arrest in his hometown of Lufkin in east Texas, said Memorial Medical Center spokeswoman Yana Ogletree. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital, and the preliminary cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest, she said.

Mr. Wilson represented Texas' 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House from 1973 to 1996 and was known in Washington as "Good Time Charlie" for his reputation as a hard-drinking womanizer.

A Democrat, Mr. Wilson was considered both a progressive and a defense hawk. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, his efforts to arm the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s were a success, spurring a victory that helped speed the downfall of the Soviet Union. But he was unable to keep the money flowing after the Soviets left in 1989, and Afghanistan plunged into chaos, creating an opening eventually filled by the Taliban, which harbored al-Qaida terrorists.

"People like me didn't fulfill our responsibilities once the war was over," Mr. Wilson said in a September 2001 interview with the Associated Press. "We allowed this vacuum to occur in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which enraged a lot of people. That was as much my fault as it was a lot of others."

Charles Wilson was born June 1, 1933, in Trinity. He attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville before earning his bachelor's degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1956.

He served as a Navy lieutenant from 1956 to 1960, then entered politics by volunteering for John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. He served in the Texas House and then in the Texas Senate before being elected to the U.S. House in 1972.

Mr. Wilson left politics in 1996, after he no longer found it fun.

Ogletree said Mr. Wilson is survived by his wife, Barbara, whom he married in 1999, and a sister.

Charlie Wilson, former Soviet nemesis and congressman, dies at 76 02/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 11:03pm]
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