Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, who won his first congressional campaign as a write-in, died in a Florida hospital Sunday. He was 70 years old.
Wilson, who had suffered a stroke in February, was recovering at a rehabilitation center. On Saturday night, he was admitted to a Boynton Beach hospital after falling ill, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
“Charlie will be remembered for his boundless energy, his honest approach, and his dedication to improving the lives of our future generations,” Wilson’s family said in a statement.
Wilson served as a Democrat in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1997 until 2005, followed by two years in the Ohio Senate. His efforts to support the Afghan mujahadeen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan were chronicled in the book "Charlie Wilson's War" and the 2007 feature film of the same name.
"An outspoken advocate for working people, Charlie never wavered in his service to his constituents or his lifelong pursuit to help improve the lives of others," Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern, who served with Wilson in the State Legislature for six years, said in a statement.
Born in Dillonvale, Ohio, on Jan. 18, 1943, Wilson championed the people of Southeast and East Ohio -- a coal-rich area -- where he secured federal funding for police departments, airports and small businesses.
News of the former congressman’s death hit his constituents hard.
Mayor Mike Lorentz of Belpre, Ohio, said Wilson worked with him on plans to improve the city’s riverfront park facilities.
"He was very disappointed that those plans were dropped after he left office," Lorentz told the Marietta Times. "He always said if there was anything we needed to just give him a call -- it was like we were old friends."
His first congressional campaign was a challenge. In May 2006, he was short four signatures of 50 that were needed to get his name on the ballot. With help from the Democratic National Committee and labor unions, he was able to secure a place on the ballot by having Democrats in his district write-in his name.
Wilson ended up defeating GOP state Rep. Chuck Blasdel, 62 percent to 38 percent.
A graduate of Ohio University and the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, Wilson was a mortician who ran a funeral home before working on Capitol Hill, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
Wilson is survived by four sons, one of whom went on to succeed him in the Ohio Senate.