Photograph by Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images.
Charles Colson, often described as the “evil genius” in President Nixon’s White House, died Saturday likely due to complications from brain surgery, reports the Associated Press. He certainly lived a full life. Colson joined the Nixon administration as special counsel in November 1969 and immediately gained favor because of his win-at-all-costs attitude. He once famously said that he would “walk over my own grandmother” to ensure Nixon’s re-election.
Colson was instrumental in running the Committee to Re-elect the President that gathered intelligence on opponents. He called himself a “hatchet man” and compiled Nixon’s enemies list, notes the Washington Post. He ended up serving a seven-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to efforts at discrediting Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers.
To say he died a different man would be an understatement.
“He had this reputation as being this ruthless guy. Even Richard Nixon thought he was ruthless,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, tells the Los Angeles Times. “That is so different than the Chuck Colson I knew. He was the least ego-driven and one of the most friendly, kind people I've ever known.”
When Colson claimed he had been “born again” while in prison, many were skeptical. But after his release, Colson stayed true to his word and founded the Prison Fellowship Ministries, which now has branches in 110 countries. He won the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1993 and became a leading voice in the evangelical movement, notes the New York Times. In 2000, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush restored his rights to practice law, and President Bush awarded him the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008.