ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Charlie Wilson, a native son of Dillonvale who went on to represent Eastern Ohio in the U.S. Congress, died Sunday afternoon in a Florida hospital from complications from a stroke he had in February.
Family spokesman J.R. Starrett issued a press release Sunday reporting Wilson was readmitted to a hospital in Florida Saturday night and died from a hemorrhage related to the stroke.
Wilson was in recovery at the Cornell Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine.
Funeral details are not yet available.
His death prompted immediate statements and comments from political supporters and opponents he had met during his political career in the Ohio General Assembly and as the Eastern Ohio congressman who succeeded former Congressman Ted Strickland who left his congressional seat when he was elected governor.
Strickland said he was both sad and surprised to hear of Wilson's death, as he had heard Wilson's condition had been improving in recent weeks.
"He was a good friend and a good fellow, and it was difficult to think this could have happened. He was really good to me throughout my service, and his service. He was very dedicated to public service ... he loved his community and state, and served them well. This is a loss not only for his family, but for all the people throughout the 6th Congressional District as well as the state. He lived his life in a way that demonstrated commitment to public service," said Strickland.
Jefferson County Democrat Party Treasurer Debbie Welsch said this morning she will always remember Wilson's smile.
"I met Charlie years ago at a fundraiser and immediately noticed his smile. He had a contagious smile. And I admired him for his personal and professional convictions," said Welsch.
"Charlie also was a financial supporter of the Jefferson County Humane Society and the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center. He always had the best interests of the community at heart. He wanted the community to succeed and he cared about our community," noted Welsch.
Longtime supporter Kyle Brown, business agent with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said today Wilson "was a very good friend to the working people."
"Charlie was a successful businessman, but he never forgot his roots and working people. He was a very sincere representative who respected our views. We didn't always agree on every issue, but Charlie always listened to us and respected our thoughts," said Brown.
Wilson owned Wilson's Furniture in Bridgeport and several funeral homes in Jefferson and Belmont counties.
"Charlie had a genuine passion for public service. He served our area honorably and he will be missed. My heart goes out to Charlie Wilson's family and his loved ones during this difficult time. He was committed to serving his constituents and worked hard to improve the quality of life for families in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio. He will be missed," said State Sen. Lou Gentile, D, Steubenville.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, squared off against Wilson in two consecutive congressional campaigns and defeated him in 2010 and 2012.
"LeeAnn and I were saddened to hear of the passing of former Congressman Charlie Wilson. Although Charlie and I were political opponents, we were never enemies. He served with honor in the Ohio Legislature and in Congress. We will be making a contribution in his memory to the scholarship fund named for him at Ohio University-Eastern and we encourage others to do so, as well. May God's healing and grace be with Charlie Wilson's family in this time of sorrow," said Johnson in a Sunday night statement.
"He was a decent gentleman who cared about people. He was always there for the working people of Ohio. Any time I needed him I could call Charlie and he always returned telephone calls. He was always there for us in Eastern Ohio," said Stratton Mayor and Jefferson County Democrat Party Chairman John Abdalla this morning.
A prepared press release from Wilson's family Sunday night noted his dedication to his former constituents.
"Throughout his extraordinary life, Congressman Wilson was motivated by a desire to serve his country and a passion for the causes most important to the constituents of Southeast and East Ohio. Congressman Wilson served with honor, dignity and an unwavering sense of civic responsibility to the families of our region. Charlie will be remembered for his boundless energy, his honest approach and his dedication to improving the lives of our future generations. For 14 years Southeast and East Ohio had a champion serving as their voice in Columbus and Washington and our communities are better places for his service."
The release also asked for contributions be made in memory of Charlie to the Congressman Charlie Wilson Leadership Program at Ohio University Eastern in St. Clairsville.
Wilson was born on Jan. 18. 1943, in Dillonvale.
He attended Ohio University in Athens before starting his business career.
Wilson was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1996 where he served until 2004 when he won election to the Ohio Senate.