He understood regular folks, even while he led a life that would leave many of his constituents wide-eyed with shock.
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Former Texas Congressman Charles Wilson (District 2) passed away today. I heard the news from Kerry Tate, who wrote to ask if I wanted to drive to his funeral together.
Many people knew Charlie personally much better than me, and millions more know of him thanks to a captivating book entitled Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile, which was turned into the movie of the same name starring Tom Hanks as the congressman. I can’t verify every detail of Crile’s account, but I can testify to the accuracy of his portrayal of the man, his characteristics and persona. The book fascinated me, because it gave context to many of my personal encounters over the years with Charlie.
I first met Congressman Wilson as a young television director working for KTRE-TV, channel 9, in Lufkin, Texas, the home of Charlie’s district office. I don’t know the details, but apparently he wanted our help producing a couple of inexpensive TV commercials for his campaign. I was a nobody, and certainly not involved in politics, and I’m sure the congressman barely knew I was involved in writing and directing the commercials. I remember being very concerned that the congressman would be happy with the commercials, after all most of our work was for local car dealers and banks. This seemed Big Time to us.
As usual, Charlie won the election, and we went back to working on the car ads, but during the next two years I left KTRE and launched a small advertising agency in Lufkin (and that’s a whole story of its own). Two years later it was campaign time again, and I went calling on the congressman to see if my little firm could handle his advertising. To my pleasure and surprise, I walked out of his door with the account. He was the most famous client I’d ever dreamed of capturing!