Obituaries

Disgrace of Watergate Conviction and Prison Term Led to 'A Life of Significance' for Charles Colson


A man once described as the evil genius of the administration of President Richard M. Nixon who was transformed by a Watergate prison term into an evangelical Christian and energetic social reformer died over the weekend of complications from brain surgery.

But Charles W. “Chuck” Colson, at 80, was remembered, by those who knew him best, not for his downfall as White House special counsel but for his remarkable accomplishments during the nearly four decades afterward, writes a syndicated columnist for whom Colson served as a mentor, decades ago, in the Seattle Times.

Convicted in 1974 of obstruction of justice and sentenced to a seven-month federal prison term, “Chuck’s swift journey from the White House to a penitentiary ended a life of accomplishment—only to begin a life of significance,” writes Michael Gerson. “The two are not always the same. The destruction of Chuck’s career freed up his skills for a calling he would not have chosen, providing fulfillment beyond his ambitions. I often heard him quote Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and mean it: ‘Bless you, prison, for having been in my life.’ “

A law graduate of George Washington University, Colson created the Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976 and in 1993 won a $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, among numerous other accomplishments.

In 2000, as he was living in Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush 1993 restored his right to vote and to practice law, notes the New York Times (reg. req.).

The Associated Press and the Telegraph also have stories.

Many doubted the turnaround that Colson publicly professed to have made, especially initially, around the time of his 1974 felony conviction.

But despite what the British newspaper describes as a “rich treasury” of “the wretched deeds and failings of the fallen sinner” prior to his religious conversion, Colson was, for those who saw, in particular, what he accomplished on behalf of prisoners in recent decades, a true example of the real and significant difference that a midlife crisis can achieve, his obituaries say.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “A Question of Faith”

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