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U.S. Representative Charlie Norwood, DDS 1941-2007

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U.S. Representative Charlie Norwood, DDS 1941-2007

One of Georgia's most beloved Members of Congress, long-time patient's and individual rights champion, dentist, Vietnam veteran, and small businessman Charles Whitlow Norwood, Jr. (R-GA), 65, died today at his home in Augusta due to complications from his eight-year battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Congressman Charlie Norwood 1941-2007

Norwood underwent a single lung transplant at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia on October 5, 2004, in response to continued lung deterioration from IPF, which was first diagnosed in 1998.

He was successfully treated for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in November 2005. Cancer development is a frequent side effect of immune-suppression drugs taken by lung-transplant patients. His latest challenge began shortly after the November 2006 elections when metastatic NSCLC was discovered in his liver.

Congressman Norwood is survived by his wife Gloria, sons Charles and Carlton Norwood, and four grandchildren, all of Augusta.

Norwood, a 7-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995-2007, served most of east Georgia at some point during his congressional career due to redistricting in 1996, 2002, and 2006, representing counties extending from the North Carolina border in the North Georgia mountains, to the Macon and Dublin area in middle Georgia, and halfway to Savannah in south Georgia. He won re-election every year since 1998 by landslide margins, and was elected to the 110th Congress in November by a 68% margin. His 10th District seat will be filled in a special election to be scheduled by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue.

Norwood achieved national recognition after introducing the first comprehensive managed health care reform legislation to Congress in 1995, which subsequently passed the House of Representatives in both 1999 and 2001. Norwood's Patient's Bill of Rights legislation became a key issue in the 2000 Presidential election, and will likely be revived in the 110th Congress.

Norwood was instrumental in health care reform for military retirees and veterans as well as patients-at-large. The former Army dentist was co-author of the Keep Our Promises to Military Retirees Act in 1999, which provided fully funded health care for life for the nation's military retirees. The majority of the bill was enacted as part of the Defense Authorization Act of 2000.

In addition to his long-time national advocacy for patients, Norwood succeeded in passing reforms across a broad range of public policy areas, spanning education, private property rights, telecommunications, and environmental regulations.

He reformed the nation's special education system by authoring the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Discipline Reform Amendment in 1999, which passed the House of Representatives and became law in 2003 as part of the Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act, protecting disabled students and their teachers from violence in the classroom.

Norwood is further recognized as the father of the nation's current Class A broadcast television service, by authoring and passing into law the Community Broadcasting Protection Act in 1998.

In federal issues with direct local economic impact, Norwood played the pivotal role in reforming U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dealings with local government and private citizens, through federal approval for restoration of the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, and reform of the Corps' Lake Management Plan regulation of private property owner rights. In addition, Norwood founded the Savannah River Water Quality Initiative in 1996, which succeeded in restoring the trout stocking demonstration project in the Savannah River rapids above Augusta in 1998.

Representative Norwood provided the driving legislative pressure in preserving federal funding and missions of the U.S. Army's Signal Corps Headquarters and Eisenhower Army Regional Medical Center at Fort Gordon, and the U.S. Department of Energy Savannah River Site project, staving off attempts to downsize or close both facilities during federal funding cutbacks throughout his congressional career.

In Congressional oversight action, Norwood played a key role in the 1996-1998 Teamster's investigation, the 1998-2002 investigations of theft and fraud at the U.S. Department of Education, and the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Norwood was a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee throughout his congressional career. In the current 110th Congress he served on the Subcommittees on Health and Oversight and Investigations. He was Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health from 2001-2004, and a member of the Energy and Power Subcommittee from 1995-2000.

Norwood also served on the Education and Workforce Committee from 1995-2006, where he was Chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections from 2001-2006, and Vice-Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee from 1997-2000.

He was also a member of the Rural Health Care Caucus, the Army Caucus, and the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, and served on the Speaker's Task Force on Tritium Production in the 104th Congress and the Speaker's Working Group on Health Care Reform in the 105th Congress.

Dr. Norwood was born in Valdosta, Georgia, July 27, 1941, the son of the late Charles Whitlow Norwood, Sr. and Lola Parham Norwood. He attended Lowndes County Public Schools through the first year of high school at Valdosta High, and graduated from Baylor Military High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1959. Norwood was a football standout throughout high school, played under legendary Valdosta High Coach Wright Bazemore, and was the defensive nemesis of later-NFL Minnesota Vikings quarterback great Fran Tarkenton during the 1958 battle between Valdosta and Athens High, and again in a 1959 Baylor-Athens High match-up.

Norwood received a bachelor's degree from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro in 1964, and a Doctorate in Dental Surgery from Georgetown University Dental School in Washington, D.C., in 1967, where he was elected President of the Dental School Student Body in his senior year. He married the former Gloria Wilkinson of Valdosta in 1962 while attending Georgia Southern.

After dental school, he volunteered for the U.S. Army and served as a Captain in the Dental Corps from 1967-69, beginning with an assignment to the U.S. Army Dental Corps at Sandia Army Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1968 he was transferred to the Medical Battalion of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam, and served a combat tour at Quin Yon, An Khe, and LZ English at Bon Son.

During his tour, he participated in experimental military dental practices that became standard procedure for the armed forces after the war. He was one of the first participants in the Army outreach program that delivered dentists to forward firebases in lieu of transferring patients to rear treatment areas. Norwood also provided some of the first field-based dental treatment of military guard dogs, and assisted in non-dental trauma care in Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH units). In recognition of his service under combat conditions, he was awarded the Combat Medical Badge and two Bronze Stars. After Vietnam, he was assigned to the Dental Corps at Fort Gordon, Georgia, where he served until his discharge in 1969. Norwood was awarded the Association of the United States Army Cocklin Award in 1998, and was inducted into the Association's Audie Murphy Society in 1999. He remained a lifelong member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Military Order of the World Wars.

Dr. Norwood began private practice dentistry in Augusta immediately after his discharge. During his dental career, he served as President of both the Georgia Dental Association and the Eastern District Dental Society, was a Delegate to the American Dental Association, and was founder of the Augusta Dental Disaster Society. He was a member of the American Dental Association, the Georgia Academy of Dental Society, the Augusta Dental Society, was an Honorable Fellow of the Georgia Dental Association, and a Fellow of both the International College of Dentistry and the American College of Dentistry Sciences.

Norwood received the American Psychological Association's Outstanding Leadership Award in 1996 and the Association's Man of the Year Award in 1998; the American Medical Association's Nathan Davis Award for 1999; and the Guardian of Medicare Award of the United States Seniors Association in 1996, for his leadership efforts in health care reform.

In addition to his dental practice, Norwood also founded Northwoods Nursery in Evans, providing trees and shrubs to wholesale outlets throughout the Central Savannah River Area, and Augusta Dental Laboratory, which manufactured dental devices for patients.

He became a stalwart supporter of small business and property rights interests in Congress, receiving the 1995 Fighting Frosh award of the United States Business and Industrial Council; the Guardian of Senior's Rights Award of the 60 Plus Association, the Friend of the Family Award of the Christian Coalition, the Friend of the Taxpayer Award of Americans for Tax Reform, the Guardian of Small Business Award of the National Federation of Independent Business, the Spirit of Enterprise Award of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Thomas Jefferson Award of the U.S. Food Service Council, the Champion of Property Rights Award of the League of Private Property Owners, the Taxpayer's Hero Award of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, and the Taxpayer's Friend Award of National Taxpayers Union.

Dr. Norwood and his wife Gloria were long-time members of and taught Adult Sunday School at Trinity-on-the-Hill United Methodist Church in Augusta. He was also a past Board Member of the Augusta Opera Society, and a member of the Augusta Symphony Guild.

A schedule of public services will be announced by the Congressional District Office as soon as events are finalized.

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