Charlie Wilson, 76, the Texas Democratic Congressman made famous by Tom Hanks in Charlie Wilson’s War, died on Wednesday. In the 1980s, Wilson helped convince the Reagan administration and the U.S. Congress to fund the Afghanistan’s resistance to the Soviet Union after the 1979 invasion.

Wilson served on the House of Representatives for 12 consecutive terms. He retired from Congress in 1987 and moved back to his hometown, Lipkin, Texas. In 2007, Wilson had a heart transplant at Methodist Hospital in Houston. On Wednesday, during a meeting with a friend, Wilson had difficulty breathing, said Yana Ogletree, a spokeswoman for Memorial Medical Center in Lufkin. He was taken to the emergency room and was pronounced dead almost immediately, as the result of a heart attack.

The money Wilson won for the Afghan resistance was used to buy high-tech weapons which shot down Soviet helicopter gunships.  "I just saw the opportunity to grab the sons o’bitches by the throat," Wilson told the Dallas Morning News in a 2007 interview.

In Charlie Wilson’s War, Hanks portrayed Wilson as a boozer, a drug-user and a womanizer who found his calling to help Afghanistan fight back against the Soviets. In 1980, Wilson was investigated for drug use but no evidence was found. "The feds spent a million bucks trying to figure out whether, when those fingernails passed under my nose, did I inhale or exhale, and I ain’t telling," Wilson told the author George Crile, who wrote the book which the movie is based upon.

Robert Gates, the U.S. defense secretary, emphasized Wilson tenacity in working for the anit-Communist cause. “As the world now knows, his efforts and exploits helped repel an invader, liberate a people, and bring the Cold War to a close," Gates said. "After the Soviets left, Charlie kept fighting for the Afghan people and warned against abandoning that traumatised country to its fate — a warning we should have heeded then, and should remember today." –NATASHA ALLOWAY

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