Remembering Charlie

February 15, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Friends, family and well-wishers said goodbye to popular congressman Charlie Norwood today.

He was many things during his lifetime: doctor, veteran, United States representative.

He was also a humble public servant who wanted us all to be on a first name basis with him.

Today Augusta honored the long-time congressman.

It was a somber send-off, fitting for a United States congressman.

The large sanctuary at Augusta's First Baptist Church was packed with family, friends, members of the military, and fellow lawmakers.

Members of the US Army Signal Corps Band set the tone: a reverent final salute for an Army veteran and US lawmaker.

Georgia governor Sonny Perdue and South Carolina governor Mark Sanford were both in attendance, and Gov. Perdue read the 23rd Psalm.

Dr. Steve Dodson, the Norwood family minister at Trinity on the Hill, talked about some of the ways others have described Charlie Norwood.

"He said more with a borrowed lung than most members of Congress say with two originals," he said. "We need 535 more just like him. What are we ever going to do without even one?"

"Charlie understood and valued the notion of common sense, which he and I reminded each other on many occasions is not so common," Dr. Dodson said.

Also taking the podium to speak was Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia's District 9.

"I know everybody here has a good Charlie Norwood story," he said, looking out at the crowd.

Rep. Deal served alongside Norwood in Congress, traveling with him to visit the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Deal recalled how Norwood introduced himself on those trips: "'Hi. I'm Charlie Norwood from Georgia. Where you from?'

"Most of them would respond respectfully, 'Congressman Norwood,'" Deal went on. "And he'd correct them immediately: 'I'm Charlie. Just Charlie.'"

"It's revealing that from the president of the United States to the most common man, he was always 'just Charlie'," Rep. Deal said.

Congressman Deal says Charlie could never be accused of spinning a story--that he would always give it to you straight.

"Sometimes he would give you the ruff and gruff...but he truly loved people."

In election after election, the voters proved they loved Charlie Norwood too. And on this day, they joined two governors, state and national lawmakers, and family and friends, Singing songs of his faith and telling stories about the man with the easygoing grin.

"I wish Charlie was here...he would have loved this," said one of Norwood's hunting buddies.

"He is now in a better place. Cheers, Charlie," said Dr. Jerry Murray, another Army medic. Dr. Murray shared some war stories about Charlie Norwood.

"He told me early on in our friendship that he planned to enter into the political arena," Dr. Murray said. "The explanation: 'As a dentist, I can help one person at a time. As an office holder, I could help hundreds or thousands at a time.' And he did."

And Norwood made a career on Capitol Hill doing just that.

Today's ceremony was delayed for about 40 minutes. Governors Perdue and Sanford and a whole delegation from Washington came to the service, and it may have taken longer than anyone expected to get them all to Augusta.

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