North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones is now in hospice care.
Jones’ office said on Saturday that the 75-year-old lawmaker’s health has “declined” after he suffered a broken hip at home earlier this month, which comes after months of absence from Congress over unknown health issues.
“The family asks for your prayers and for their privacy to be respected during this difficult time,” a statement read.
Republican in hospice
Jones was granted a leave of absence from Congress in December after he was unable to cast any votes starting in late September because of an unknown illness or illnesses. He broke his hip at home on Jan. 14 and had surgery the next day.
Hospice care typically provides palliative treatment for patients fighting incurable terminal or chronic illnesses. North Carolina Republican Party chairman Robin Hayes called the news “extremely sad.”
“The news about Walter Jones entering hospice is extremely sad for the entire Republican family,” Robin Hayes, said in a statement. “[We] pray for comfort and peace for him and his family.”
Jones has said that this would be his last term. He has a wife, Joanne, and one daughter.
His office issued a statement after his wife confirmed the news Saturday to Greenville TV station WITN, but neither Jones’ office nor his wife elaborated further on his condition.
More than two decades in Congress
Jones has served his district for 24 years. He rose up from the North Carolina General Assembly to win his first term in the state’s 3rd congressional district in 1994, and he served for 12 straight terms before running in an uncontested election in November to win a 13th. He was sworn in at home in Farmville.
Jones comes from a political family, according to the Fayetteville Observer. His father, Walter Jones, Sr., was a Democrat in Congress from 1962 until his death in 1992. Jones Jr. at first failed to win his Democratic father’s seat, but later won the district after it was re-drawn in 1994.
Jones may be best known for popularizing the term “Freedom Fries” after the French came out in opposition to the Iraq War, which he initially voted for before also coming out against it. Jones has said that he regrets supporting the war and began writing letters to express his sympathy to the families of soldiers killed in the conflict starting in 2003.
“For me, it’s a sacred responsibility that I have to communicate my condolences to a family,” Jones told the Associated Press in 2017. “And it’s very special to me because it goes back to my regretting that I voted to go into the Iraq war.”
Numerous military facilities including Camp Lejeune are located in Jones’ district. A memorial to Camp Lejeune soldiers killed in Iraq stands outside his congressional office.
After a change of heart on U.S. involvement in the Middle East, Jones moved in 2017 to request new authorization to fight ISIS there, saying that the mandate to fight abroad stemming from 9/11 needed to be renewed. He also led an effort for years to clear the names of two pilots who were blamed for a deadly 2000 V-22 Osprey crash. The late pilots, who died in the accident, were finally vindicated in 2016.