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Former congressman Charlie Wilson helped fund Afghanistan's resistance to the Soviet Union. His story was told in the book and film Charlie Wilson's War.
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While attending Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, Wilson was appointed to the United States Naval Academy. Wilson received a B.S. degree, graduating eighth from the bottom of his class in 1956.
From 1956 to 1960, Wilson served in the U.S. Navy, attaining the rank of lieutenant. Having graduated as a gunnery office, he was assigned to a destroyer that searched for Soviet submarines. He then took a top secret post the Pentagon as part of an intelligence unit that evaluated the Soviet Union's nuclear forces.
John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1960. After a 30-day leave from the Navy, he entered his name into the race for Texas State Representative from his home district. While back on duty, his mother, sister and their friends went door to door campaigning. It worked. And at age 27, he was sworn into office.
For the next dozen years, Wilson made a name for himself as the "liberal from Lufkin." He supported abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. Wilson also battled for regulation of utilities, Medicaid, tax exemptions for the elderly and a minimum wage bill.
Wilson rarely spoke on the House floor and was never associated with any of the great legislative issues of his day. He angered colleagues like Pat Schroeder, a Colorado Democrat, by calling her "Babycakes," later admitting he had been a "reckless and rowdy public servant" at times.
But beneath it all was a fervent anti-Communist and deeply ambitious politician, as revealed in George Crile's 2003 book Charlie Wilson's War. And Wilson eventually found his destiny, becoming the secret patron of what was then the largest covert operation in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency.
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