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GREENVILLE — Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. of Farmville died Sunday after entering hospice care late last month, according to his congressional office. He died on his birthday and had just turned 76.
"I am deeply saddened by the passing of a longtime leader, proud North Carolinian, a devoted family man of deep faith and my friend of over 40 years," Rep. G.K. Butterfield said in a statement.
Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat representing the 1st Congressional District, administered Jones' oath of office in January. The 3rd District Republican congressman's health declined after he suffered a broken hip and underwent surgery on Jan. 15.
Jones has served in Congress since January 1995 and is the son of former Rep. Walter Jones Sr. An early supporter of the Iraq war, Jones later came to regret his vote to authorize U.S. involvement. The congressional newspaper Roll Call described Jones on Sunday as "an independent Republican resolute in his commitments to ending U.S. wars and diminishing the role of government."
Butterfield said he will miss Jones' "humility, intellect and unwavering love of his community."
"Congressman Jones represented the best of North Carolina politics," said Butterfield. "He understood that being a leader meant often putting political allegiances aside in order to bring people together around important work."
Gov. Roy Cooper mourned Jones' passing in a Sunday evening statement.
"I am grateful for the life and service of my longtime friend Congressman Walter Jones Jr.," Cooper said. "He was a public servant who was true to his convictions and who will be missed."
Jones is a 1966 graduate of Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College. He served in the North Carolina National Guard and helped lead his family business before running for office. Surviving relatives include Jones' wife, Joe Anne, and daughter, Ashley.