MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Charles Colson, the tough-as-nails special counsel to President Richard Nixon who went to prison for his role in a Watergate-related case and became a Christian evangelical helping inmates, has died. He was 80.
Al Quie, a former Minnesota governor, remembers not liking him very much at first.
“I was in Congress at that time, and I refused to go to any meetings in the White House where he was present, because I knew the kind of shenanigans he was up to,” Quie said.
Colson, with his trademark horn-rimmed glasses, was known as the “evil genius” of the Nixon administration, who once said he’d walk over his grandmother to get the president elected to a second term.
Quie said he recalled when a friend of his called to say that Colson had come to believe in Jesus Christ. That friend asked if there was anybody who could mentor him down in Washington.
“I said yes only because about two and a half years earlier, I had an encounter with the Lord and He said that I shouldn’t turn my back on people who committed crimes,” he said.
Quie said he started going to the Lorton Penitentiary with a group of men.
“There were two democrats, Harold Hughes, who was about as liberal as you could come in Congress, and Graham Purcell from Texas, who was more like a moderate Republican, and myself, and a guy named Doug Coe,” he said.
When Colson started Prison Fellowship Ministries, he asked Quie to go on the board. Quie said he refused, because he was still in government. But after he left, he served there, and was president himself for a while.
The Washington Post described him in 1972 as “one of the most powerful presidential aides, variously described as a troubleshooter and as a `master of dirty tricks.”‘
Quie says, after his transformation, he helped thousands of convicts, turn their lives around as well.