In The News
East Texas Political Figures React To Death Of Former Congressman Charlie Wilson
Tyler Morning Telegraph
By ADAM RUSSELL
Charlie Wilson made a big impression in East Texas, as a friend, mentor and politician.
"I lost a friend," said U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, regarding Wilson's death.
Hall said Wilson was a brilliant man and politician.
Wilson aided Hall when he arrived in Washington to serve in Congress. The two were good friends from their days in the Texas Senate, Hall said. Hall remembers Wilson's humor the most.
"He had a funny thing to say about everything," Hall said.
Wilson, who had previously divorced while in the Texas Senate, was dating Miss World, a Russian beauty, Hall said, when one day newspaper headlines suggested a wedding between the two was off. On the floor of Congress that morning Hall questioned Wilson on the wedding plans.
"Charlie, you're not going to marry that beautiful Russian Miss World?" Hall asked.
"You knew I wasn't going to marry that woman," Wilson responded.
"No I didn't," Hall quipped back. "How would I know something like that?"
"You ever see a three-legged fox go back near a trap?" said Wilson.
Wilson did remarry though, to Barbara Alberstadt in 1999.
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert said it was difficult to be around Wilson without smiling. He said East Texans have shared with him that they knew Wilson had personal issues but was always honest about them. He said that type of candor will be missed.
"He was a man of purpose, who obviously enjoyed life," he said in a statement. "Among his greatest loves, he loved his country, he loved veterans, he loved East Texas, and, of course, Barbara who brought him such strength, comfort and stability these last several years."
Hall said Wilson impacted the world. Reagan gets credit for bringing the Berlin wall down, Hall said, but Wilson played a part in its collapse. Wilson's position on committees in Congress to authorize ground-to-air missiles to the Afghans were instrumental in the collapse of the Soviet Union, he said.
"He had something to do with world events," Hall said. "He made a difference."
Retired 12th Court of Appeals Judge Bill Bass, who introduced Wilson during an event in Tyler, expressed his sadness at the loss as he drove to visit the congressman's family. The two served in the Texas Legislature during the late 60s and early 70s.
"He was a mentor and somebody I am going to miss very much," Bass said.
Bass said Wilson's role in the crumbling of the "Evil Empire" and communism places him in the handful of people who shaped the history of the 20th century. The two spoke Monday and had set plans to swap books next Wednesday. Wilson was a veracious reader and studied history and world leaders, Bass said. Wilson was especially fond of Winston Churchill, he said.
"He was a man who studied heroism and admired it very much and he became an authentic American hero himself," Bass said. "There surely won't be another like him."
Bass said despite Wilson's eccentricities the man knew how to deliver for his constituents as a legislator at the state and national level.
Diane DeVasto, president of the Smith County Bar Association, said Wilson, who spoke at a 2008 Tyler event to raise money for pro-bono work by the bar, said he was a gentleman who had a great penchant for helping causes. She said he felt the pro-bono work was a compelling need in the community and was gracious and giving in his support.
State Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, said the congressman was a supporter of his district and a champion for small and big businesses in the region. He said he was respectable, unusual and effective.
"He certainly used his personal skills to the utmost for the betterment of East Texas," he said.
Gohmert said Wilson is proof of what one man can do when he is determined.
Hall said his prayers go out to Wilson's family and his widow, who "straightened him up in the last years of his life."