Watergate figure, prison minister, and author Chuck Colson died Saturday (April 21) at the age of 80. The cause was reported to be complications from brain surgery he underwent in March.
Colson became infamous as Richard Nixon's "dirty trickster" and for his role on the Committee to Re-elect the President as it put in motion actions that led to the burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices in 1972, and eventually to Nixon's resignation in August 1974. Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for his efforts before the burglary to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, though charges he actually played a role in the burglary of Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, or in the Watergate burglary and cover-up, were dropped. He served seven months in prison.
Before going to prison Colson became a born-again Christian; despite skepticism of the sincerity of his conversion, he went on to found Prison Fellowship, a ministry to prisoners, in 1976, and to write more than 20 books, including Born Again: What Really Happened to the White House Hatchet Man (Chosen Books, 1976), which became a bestseller and was made into a movie. According to Baker Publishing Group, Born Again has sold more than 2 million copies in all editions. Royalties from all of Colson’s books have gone to Prison Fellowship; he also donated the $1 million awarded to him with the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1993.
Colson co-wrote with Richard John Neuhaus Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium (Thomas Nelson, 1995), which urged Catholics and evangelicals to set aside their historic animosities and theological differences and unite as Christians.
The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association recognized Colson with its 2010 Jordon Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to Christian publishing. Nine of Colson’s books won awards from ECPA over the years.
On Monday (April 23) Zondervan announced plans to donate to Prison Fellowship a portion of the proceeds (beyond royalties) from the four books Colson published with them. They include Loving God (1984), Kingdoms in Conflict (1987), God & Government (2007), and The Faith (2008); these titles have sold 1.2 million copies across all formats, according to Zondervan.