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Rep. Charles Norwood, Jr., 65; Georgia Republican entered Congress in '94

February 14, 2007|From the Associated Press

Rep. Charles Norwood Jr., a Georgian who rode the Republican tidal wave in 1994 that gave the GOP control of the House, died Tuesday after battling cancer and lung disease. He was 65.

Norwood, who also was a dentist, died at his home in Augusta, Ga., his office said. House members debating the war in Iraq briefly interrupted proceedings to pause for a moment of silence in his honor.

The vacancy created by Norwood's death won't be filled immediately. In Georgia, the governor submits an official request for a special election to the secretary of state. The request must be made within 10 days after the seat is vacated and the election must be held no fewer than 30 days later.

A feisty, tobacco-chewing conservative who loved to hunt and who railed against government bureaucracy, Norwood came out of nowhere to beat Democratic incumbent Don Johnson in 1994. He became the first Republican to represent that northeastern Georgia district since shortly after the Civil War.

Friends say Norwood had hoped to follow that by becoming Georgia's first Republican governor in the modern era. He also considered a Senate bid but decided against running for statewide office after learning in 1998 that he had lung disease.

Norwood's passion was healthcare. Taking on insurance companies, he spent much of his political career pressing for a "patients' bill of rights" aimed at giving consumers better access to care, including greater ability to sue insurers.

More recently, Norwood pounced on the issue of immigration, saying the country faces a "true invasion" and calling for nearly 40,000 troops on the border. He also was one of 33 House members to vote against renewing the Voting Rights Act last year, arguing that it discriminates against Southern states over long-past racial transgressions.

Born in Valdosta, Ga., on July 27, 1941, Charles Whitlow Norwood Jr. attended Baylor School, a military academy in Chattanooga, Tenn.

It was there that Norwood shot and killed a close friend as the two were playing quick-draw with what they thought was an unloaded pistol. A staunch advocate for gun rights, he said the accident convinced him that education and training are the best gun control, not restrictions.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Georgia Southern College and a doctorate in dental surgery from Georgetown University.

He volunteered for the Army and served a combat tour in the Vietnam War in 1968, earning two Bronze Stars.

Norwood is survived by his wife, Gloria; two sons, Charles and Carlton; and four grandchildren.

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