Charles W. Colson


Charles W. Colson




May 5, 2007

Biographical Sketch

Charles Wendell Colson was born on October 16, 1931 in Boston, Massachusetts. As a teenager, he demonstrated an interest in politics by volunteering for the 1948 reelection campaign of Massachusetts Governor Robert Bradford. He graduated from the Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1949 and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree at Brown University in 1953. That same year, he married Nancy Billings on June 3rd and also joined the United States Marine Corps. He later married Patricia Ann Hughes on April 4, 1964.

After serving in the Marines for two years, during which time he was promoted to the rank of Captain, Colson left the military in 1955. He then worked for approximately one year as the Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Material), which was a civilian office within the United States Department of the Navy.

Colson began his political career in 1956 when he became an Administrative Assistant to Massachusetts Senator Leverett Saltonstall. It was during this time that Colson met then Vice President Richard Nixon. Colson obtained his Juris Doctor degree at George Washington University in 1959 and founded the Colson & Morin law firm in 1961. Former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Edward Gadsby joined the firm, as did former Raytheon General Counsel Paul Hannah. The firm’s name was eventually shortened to Gadsby & Hannah.

In 1968, Colson served as Counsel to Nixon’s Key Issues Committee and was appointed Special Counsel to the President on November 6, 1969. He was implicated in the Watergate scandal and eventually resigned from the White House staff on March 10, 1973 in order to return to the private practice of law as Senior Partner at his Colson & Shapiro law firm in Washington, D.C.

Nearly a year later, on March 1, 1974, Colson was indicted for conspiring to cover up the Watergate burglary. He eventually pled guilty to obstruction of justice in relation to his efforts to defame Daniel Ellsberg. On June 21, 1974, Colson received a sentence of one to three years and a fine of $5,000. After serving seven months, he was released from prison on January 31, 1975.

His personal experiences led Colson to found the Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976 and the Justice Fellowship in 1983. The non-profit organizations function as Christian outreach and criminal justice reform groups. In 1993, Colson was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. For his various social, political and religious efforts, he was also given a number of other awards and honorary degrees over the course of several years, such as the Salvation Army’s Others Award (1990) and the Presidential Citizens Medal (2008), which was awarded by President George W. Bush. In 2000, Florida Governor Jeb Bush somewhat controversially restored the rights Colson had been stripped of as a convicted felon, including his right to vote.

In addition, Charles Colson became a prolific writer. He authored or contributed to more than 30 books. Some of his own titles include Born Again (1976), Life Sentence (1979), Answers to Your Kids’ Questions(2000) and The Sky is Not Falling: Living Fearlessly in these Turbulent Times (2011).

Charles Colson died in Falls Church, Virginia on April 21, 2012 from complications from a brain hemorrhage.

(Source: Nixon Presidential Library and Museum)


Cedarville, commencement, Colson

Charles W. Colson