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Watergate Figure, Christian Leader Chuck Colson Dies

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By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — Chuck Colson, a Watergate-era “hatchet man” for President Richard Nixon who became an influential evangelical leader after serving time in prison, died Saturday afternoon, according to his website. He was 80.

His death came just over three weeks after Colson “was overcome by dizziness” while speaking at a conference and rushed to a northern Virginia hospital. Surgeons operated on him for two hours for a brain hemorrhage

“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,” said the statement on his Website.

News of his death soon stirred reactions, with David Frum — a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a CNN contributor — saying on Twitter that Colson made his “greatest impact when furthest from power.”

“The world has lost a brilliant, passionate, persuasive, humble servant in Chuck Colson,” said Lee Strobel, an evangelical commentator and author, also on Twitter. “He showed us all how to live in truth and grace.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R- Kentucky, described Colson’s story as “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 marginalized and the outcast have called all of us to a deeper reflection on our lives and priorities,” McConnell said. “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.”

Colson was the first Nixon aide to be convicted of Watergate-related charges in the 1972 scandal.

According to his official biography, Colson “admits he was guilty of political ‘dirty tricks” and willing to do almost anything for the cause of his president and his party.”

But as he prepared to leave prison at the end of his sentence, he promised fellow inmates that he would not forget them or his experience there, his biography says.

After his release, he reinvented himself as a Christian leader and in 1976 founded Prison Fellowship. The nonprofit group provides support for inmates in the form of in-prison Bible studies, mentoring programs and support for the children of prisoners.

Today, the organization calls itself “the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families,” with a presence in 113 countries.

Colson himself spoke out in a daily radio commentary called “BreakPoint,” which aired on stations nationwide.

He also founded The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, which seeks “the transformation of believers as they apply biblical thinking to all of life” in part through offerings on “today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.