Rep. Norwood dies after long bout with cancer

Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) died yesterday at his home in Augusta after an extensive battle with lung cancer and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). He was 65.

Norwood was hospitalized earlier this year for treatment at the Georgetown University Medical Center and returned to Georgia last week for hospice care at his home. He was diagnosed with IPF in 1998.

Norwood received a single-lung transplant in 2004 and developed non-small cell lung cancer in 2005, according to a release from his office. In recent years, Norwood relied on an oxygen tank and used a motorized scooter to get to the House floor.

In an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article last May, Norwood expressed his hope that eventually he would no longer need the oxygen tank, but confessed to liking the scooter.

“I may still use the damn scooter,” he told the paper. “I love that thing. I can outrun any member of Congress or run over somebody.”

It has been a difficult time for Norwood’s family and friends on Capitol Hill.

Rodney Whitlock, a Senate Finance Committee aide who worked for Norwood from 1995 to 2005, visited the congressman last week at the hospital.

“I showed him the latest photo of my kids and held his hand,” Whitlock said. “It’s pretty hard.”

Norwood was known for his spirit and wit. During his tenure in Congress, he championed several healthcare initiatives, including his landmark Patient’s Bill of Rights.

Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) expressed his sorrow for the man who was “always cherished by his colleagues as a ‘folksy dentist’” and praised his commitment to conservative values.

A former Army dentist, Norwood was elected in 1994 to Georgia’s 10th district seat; he was reelected to his seventh consecutive term last November, taking 67 percent of the vote. As a result of his service in Vietnam, Norwood was awarded the Combat Medical Badge and two Bronze Stars. After his military service, Norwood opened a private dentistry practice in Augusta.

Norwood was born in Valdosta, Ga., on July 27, 1941.

A moment of silence was observed on the House and Senate floors yesterday afternoon.

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), who announced Norwood’s death in the House chamber, said, “He was a great member of this body and a friend to all.”

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who served with Norwood on the Education and the Workforce Committee, said, “Charlie was a truly honorable man … Charlie will be sorely missed.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “As a member of Congress, he did his best to serve his constituents, his conscience, and his country. He faced the end of his life and his sickness with great bravery and dignity.”

Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) described Norwood as “a true American hero.”

Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, “If you were ever in a fight, you always wanted Charlie Norwood on your side.”

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

Funeral arrangements are in the care of Thomas Poteet and Son Funeral Directors in Martinez, Ga. The 10th congressional district office will soon announce a schedule of public services honoring Norwood.

Bob Cusack contributed to this report.