Wilson died Wednesday at Memorial Medical Center-Lufkin after he started having difficulty breathing while attending a meeting in the eastern Texas town where he lived, said hospital spokeswoman Yana Ogletree. Wilson was pronounced dead on arrival, and the preliminary cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest, she said.
Wilson represented the 2nd district in east Texas in the U.S. House from 1973 to 1996 and was known as "Good Time Charlie" when he was in Washington.
Actor Tom Hanks portrayed Wilson in the 2007 movie about Wilson's efforts to arm Afghani mujahedeen during their war against the Soviet Union. Wilson, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, helped secure money for weapons.
Texas Senator John Cornyn said, “I am saddened to hear of Congressman Wilson’s passing. He was a lifetime public servant with a fiery passion for the people of East Texas, our men and women in uniform, our veterans and our freedoms. I have had the great privilege to work alongside him on several issues of importance to our veterans in Texas, and I will miss his leadership and dedication. My wife and I send our deepest condolences to Barbara as she and her loved ones mourn the loss of this remarkable individual.”