But it is the sudden reversal of his support for the Bush war in Iraq that has made Jones famous, a turnaround that marked the beginning of a period increasingly outside the mainstream of the Republican Party .

Jones had initially supported the war in 2002, even going as far as to lead the effort to persuade the House's cafeterias to rename fries to "Freedom Fries" to protest France's opposition. to the war led by the United States.

"It's a real tribute" he said at the time. "Whenever someone will order Freedom Fries, I hope they will think of our men and women serving in this great country."

But he soon regretted the vote, he told the Associated Press in 2017. After attending the funeral of Marine Sgt. Michael Bitz in 2003, he wrote a letter of apology to Bitz's family. And he continued to write such letters – over 11,000 to relatives of deceased US service members in subsequent years.

When Jones wrote this first letter, "I felt a lot of emotions and I still wear the vote today for a useless war". he told the daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper of the University of North Carolina, in November 2017.

Jones told the paper that he had also begun regularly visiting injured servicemen at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland "to remember that war is a hell – people are dying; people are injured. "

Jones was a conservative democrat when he ran for the first time to succeed his father in Congress in 1992. He lost and in 1994 he joined the Republican Party and was elected as part of the so-called Republican Revolution conducted by the representative Newt Gingrich, R-Georgia.

But Jones's opposition to the war after 2003 has highlighted his growing distance from some elements of his party. Jones voted with the party 81% of the time during his congressional career – but only about 60 percent of the time after the swearing in of Trump in January 2017.

He invited the representative Devin Nunes, R-Calif., Then chairman of the intelligence committee, to withdraw from the committee's investigation into the alleged influence of Russia in the 2016 elections, arguing that Nunes was too closely related to Trump.

And he has consistently opposed US military action abroad since Trump took office, sharply criticizing US-led operations in Afghanistan and Syria.

Colleagues remembered Jones on Sunday as a man of principle who defended his beliefs even when they were unpopular.

"He was an official who was true to his beliefs and we will miss him," North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper said in a statement.

Senator Thom Tillis, QC, said: "He always did what he felt was right for his constituents, his district and his country, and it was no wonder that his admiration and trust were so big. "

CORRECTION (February 11, 2019, 12:30 pm ET): An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified membership of a party of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. He is a democrat, not a republican.