Washington: He was described as the "evil genius" of the (former US president Richard) Nixon administration, and spent the better part of a year in prison for a Watergate-related conviction. His proclamations following his release that he was a new man, redeemed by his religious faith, were met with more than scepticism by those angered at the abuses he had perpetrated as one of Nixon`s hatchet men.
But Charles "Chuck" Colson spent the next 35 years steadfast in his efforts to evangelize to a part of society scorned just as he was. And he became known perhaps just as much for his efforts to minister to prison inmates as for his infamy with Watergate.
Colson died on Saturday at age 80. His death was confirmed by Jim Liske, chief executive of the Lansdowne, Virginia-based Prison Fellowship Ministries that Colson founded. Liske said the preliminary cause of death was complications from brain surgery Colson had at the end of March. He underwent the surgery to remove a clot after becoming ill on March 30 while speaking at a conference.
Colson once famously said he`d walk over his grandmother to get the president elected to a second term. In 1972 The Washington Post called him "one of the most powerful presidential aides, variously described as a troubleshooter and as a `master of dirty tricks’."
Politicians and friends responded to the death of Charles Colson. Here is what they said:
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: "Chuck Colson lived an extraordinary life. He was a man who experienced tremendous lows yet went on to spark a movement of ideas and people focused on spiritual transformation."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R- Kentucky: "For nearly four decades, Chuck Colson`s life and example have been a constant and necessary reminder to those of us in and out of public office of the seductions of power and the rewards of service. His famous redemption story and tireless advocacy on behalf of the marginalised and the outcast have called all of us to a deeper reflection on our lives and priorities. He lives on as a modern model of redemption and a permanent rebuttal to the cynical claim that there are no second chances in life."
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney: "Chuck Colson embodied and made possible an immeasurable amount of good in the lives of the people, families and communities he served in bringing a message of faith and hope."
The Reverend Billy Graham: "For more than 35 years, Chuck Colson, a former prisoner himself, has had a tremendous ministry reaching into prisons and jails with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. When I get to Heaven and see Chuck again, I believe I will also see many, many people there whose lives have been transformed because of the message he shared with them."
Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum: "Chuck was a patriot, who loved his country and loved serving his God, and we are all a little better off for having known him."
US Representative Mike Pence, R- Indiana: "Having been given a second chance, Chuck Colson devoted his life to carrying the Christian message of second chances to those in prison, and he saw countless lives changed by his compassion and example."
Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre: "He played political hardball for keeps. He was ruthless. He wanted to win at all costs and he had a reputation as a person who wanted to win at all costs ... I think if he`s going to be remembered for anything, he`s going to be remembered as a person who had a complete turnaround in his life."