Remembering Charles Nesbitt Wilson

By Jena Johnson - email

LUFKIN, TX - As hundreds gathered to celebrate Charlie Wilson's 76 years of life, it brought his first political campaign manager back to 1956, where Wilson's political legacy began.

"One of my fond memories of Charlie during that first campaign when we were standing on the intersection in downtown Lufkin holding those street maps he was giving away to his constituents," said Jimmy Martin, Wilson's first campaign manager. "With that booming voice he would say, 'I'm Charlie Wilson, this is the voice for you in Austin,' and I knew right then and there this guy's going places."

Hunter was around about Wilson. Perhaps best known for his work in Afghanistan, friends of Wilson say it was the little things that made him big in life.

"I've been involved in politics for 30 years and I never met anybody that had friends like Charlie," said Jack Martin, Wilson's friend. "Nobody really disliked Charlie even people who disagreed with him, even people at times who I suspect ran against him."

Friends hope people will remember what wilson stood for: freedom, hope and family.

"He never ever wavered, he never let up, he never gave in and really fought hard for what he thought and I think that's something that people could learn from Charlie," said Martin.

Perhaps the hardest part is saying good-bye to a friend larger than life.

"I hope they'll remember a big, tall east Texan with a great smile with a large heart and a lot of compassion," said Ben Barnes, former Lt. Governor.

"Fair the well Charlie, we're going to miss you, but you know it's been said as long as a man is remembered he still lives with us and Charlie Wilson will always be remembered," said Hunter.

With that, even in death, Wilson's legacy lives on.

***The following information provided by Gipson Funeral Home.

Congressman Charles Nesbitt Wilson, 76, of Lufkin was born June 1, 1933 in Trinity, Texas and passed away February 10, 2010 in Lufkin.

Wilson graduated from he United States Naval Academy in 1956.  After being commissioned in the Navy, he was assigned to a destroyer in 1956.  He served in several capacities on the ship ending up, after 38 months of sea duty, as the Gunnery officer.  He was then assigned  as a Naval Intelligence Officer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, until his Honorable Discharge in late 1960.

In November of 1960, Wilson was elected to the Texas Legislature where he served until his election to US Congress in 1972.  He spent 24 years in the United State Congress serving briefly on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee.  The vast amount of his tenure was the Appropriations Committee where he served for 21 years.  In this capacity, he was assigned to the Defense Subcommittee as well as the Foreign Operations Subcommittee.  He also won a seat on the Intelligence Committee making him the only member of Congress to serve simultaneously on the three legislative bodies dealing with the national security of the United States as well as its intelligence gathering capacity.

In the 1980's Wilson became convinced that the decisive battle of the Cold War was beginning to take place between the Red Army and the Freedom Fighters of Afghanistan.  He dedicated himself throughout the 80's to strengthening the cause of the Freedom Fighters.  To the astonishment of the world, the intrepid mountain men were finally victorious, driving the defeated Red Army ignominiously back to the Soviet Union.  Most contemporary historians credit the Polish Pope, Lech Waleza and the Afghan defeat, as the blows from which the Evil Empire could not recover.  Because of the Afghan victory, it is notable that eleven months later the Berlin Wall collapsed.

The above conflict is the subject of "Charlie Wilson's War," a New York Times best sellers, in 2002.  The book was made into a movie starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  It had a successful debut in 2007.  The Congressman was further honored by the University of Texas.  A one million dollar Charlie Wilson Chair in Pakistan Studies was financed by the TLL Temple Foundation, the Pakistani community, and donors throughout the United States.

Wilson is the only civilian to hold the CIA award as "Honored Colleague."  He was also awarded the Afghan Freedom Medal.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara Wilson; sister and brother-in-law, Sharon and Sam Allison of Waco, Texas; sister-in-law, Deborah Livshin of Cockeysville, MD; step-daughter and son-in-law, Sarah Adriene and Brett Wiener of Clearwater, FL; step-daughter and finance, Rachel Arin and Scott Steele of Clearwater, FL; nephew, Samuel Wilson Allison of Waco, TX; niece and her husband, Elizabeth Allison and Kirk Florence of Dallas, TX; two great-nephews, Wilson Buchanan Florence and Samuel Patrick Florence; great-niece, Grayson Anne Allison.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Wilmuth (Nesbitt) and Charles E. Wilson.

Note:  Memorial contributions may be sent to the Charlie Wilson Scholarship Fund at Angelina COllege, P.O. Box 1768, Lufkin, Texas  75902.