From Burgler to Evangelist: R.I.P. Chuck Colson

The Watergate Scandal was a dark point in the history of the American Presidency. But it was a momentary darkness, which led to a lifetime of life-saving ministry.

On 17th June 1972, 5 men were arrested for breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Initially, it was assumed that it was just a simple burglary that went wrong. However, when investigations started, it was found out that the men had entered the office to repair bugs that they had installed into the office nearly a week earlier.

On further investigations, it was found out that the so-called burglars were some how connected to the White House and were given the task to spy on the Democrats. One of the “burglars” arrested was named Jim McCord Jr. He was the security officer for Richard Nixon’s Committee to Reelect the President. Even a diary was found which had the contact number of E Howard Hunt, who was an intelligence agent and a member of the White House plumbers, which was a secret team of agents working at the behest of the White House. The investigators went on to figure out that the E Howard Hunt along G Gordon Liddy were the brains behind the first break in. Soon it was found that there were many agents responsible for spying on the Democrats. A check meant for Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign was traced to the bank account of one of the burglars. This led the investigators to conclude that the campaign funds were being used to fund these illegal activities. However, even at this stage, it did not stop Richard Nixon, a Republican, to win the US president election.

James McCord sent a letter to the trial judge naming other people who were part of this conspiracy. With more and more evidence being unearthed, it was soon clear that Richard Nixon was personally involved in the scandal along with several members from his administration. It was also discovered that many of the conversations regarding the conspiracy took place in the Oval Office and these conversations were taped. Initially, Nixon denied the presence of the tapes, but due to US Supreme Court order, he was forced to hand over the tapes containing the damning conversations. However, some important conversations from these tapes were missing.

The US Congress was forced to begin the process of impeachment against Richard Nixon. However, before the culmination of the process, Nixon resigned on 9th August 1974. While Nixon himself did not serve any prison time, many of his aides were found guilty by the Grand Jury.

One of the men who helped to plan the break-in was Charles “Chuck” Colson.

Charles Wendell Colson was born in Boston in October, 1931. After graduating from Brown University Colson joined the U.S. Marine Corps (1953-55). This was followed by the post of Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1955–56).

Colson was a member of the Republican Party and in 1956 he became Administration Assistant to Senator Leverett Saltonstall. In 1961 Colson became a partner in the Gadsby and Hannah Law Firm.

In 1969 Colson was appointed to the White House staff as Counsel to President Richard Nixon. Colson also began involved in the activities of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). On 20th March, 1971, at a meeting of CREEP it was agreed to spend $250,000 “intelligence gathering” operation against the Democratic Party.

Colson and John Ehrlichman appointed E. Howard Hunt as a member of the White House Special Investigations Unit. On 15th May Arthur Bremer attempted to assassinate George Wallace. As a result Colson ordered Hunt to break into Bremer’s apartment to see if he could find any information that the Democratic Party was involved in the assassination. However, some have claimed that Hunt’s role was to remove incriminating documents from Bremer’s home.

…In 1974, Colson entered a plea of guilty to Watergate-related charges. He also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Daniel Ellsberg case. He was given a one-to-three year sentence. However, he only served seven months at Alabama’s Maxwell Prison.

In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which has become the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families. Colson has visited prisons throughout the US and the world and has built a movement working with more than 40,000 prison ministry volunteers, with ministries in 100 countries. Colson became highly critical of the prison system and in 1983 he established Justice Fellowship, a faith-based criminal justice reform group.

Chuck Colson passed away yesterday and has posted the following tribute:

Evangelical Christianity lost one of its most eloquent and influential voices today with the death of Charles W. “Chuck” Colson. The Prison Fellowship and Colson Center for Christian Worldview founder died at 3:12 p.m. on Saturday from complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage. Colson was 80.

A Watergate figure who emerged from the country’s worst political scandal, a vocal Christian leader and a champion for prison ministry, Colson spent the last years of his life in the dual role of leading Prison Fellowship, the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families, and the Colson Center, a teaching and training center focused on Christian worldview thought and application.

Colson was speaking at a Colson Center conference when he was overcome by dizziness. Quickly surrounded by friends and staff, Colson was sent to the Fairfax Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. On March 31, he underwent two hours of surgery to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain. At times, Chuck showed encouraging indicators of a possible recovery, but his health took a decided turn, and he went to be with the Lord. His wife, Patty, and the family were with him in the last moments before he entered eternity.

Revered by his friends and supporters, Colson won the respect of those who disagreed with his religious and political views thanks to his tireless work on behalf of prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families. Colson maintained that the greatest joy in life for him was to see those “living monuments” to God’s grace: Prisoners transformed by the love of Jesus Christ. And thanks to the work of Colson and Prison Fellowship volunteers across the country, there are thousands of those living monuments among us today.

A remarkable man.  A remarkable life.  A merciful, redeeming God.

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