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TribBlog: Charlie Wilson Dead at 76

Former Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson died in Lufkin today at age 76.

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Former Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson died in Lufkin today at age 76. KTRE News in Lufkin reports that Wilson passed at Lufkin Memorial Hospital as a result of a cardio pulmonary arrest.

Wilson, a Democrat, served the 2nd Congressional District in East Texas from 1972 to 1996. He was famous for finding funding for a covert war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980's. His efforts to arm the mujahedeen in Afghanistan were chronicled in the book and film, Charlie Wilson's War.

"I'm just in a state of shock and sadness," said Charlie Schnabel, who served as Wilson's chief-of-staff in Washington. "He was a wonderful guy, and he felt like what he did in Afghanistan had historic proportions because what we did to help the mujahadeen had direct implications in communist Eastern Europe. The chain of events that started in Afghanistan had significant proportions. The first domino to fall to crush the Soviet Union happened in Afghanistan."

Before going to Washington, Wilson - also known as "Good Time Charlie" - served more than a decade in the Texas Legislature.

"He was so wonderfully outrageous and always was," said Sara Speight, a former reporter and legislative staffer when Wilson was in the state legislature. "The joke around the capitol was you didn't want to get stuck in the elevator with him."

KTRE reports that Wilson received a heart transplant in 2007 in Houston.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara.

"In the last ten years of his life he had a great marriage with Barbara, and he settled into being 76 years old," Schnabel said.

Funeral arragements are pending.

NOTE: KUT News in Austin spoke with Tribune Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith about Charlie Wilson this afternoon. Their talk is available on the KUT site.

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