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Chuck Colson, Marine, maverick and missionary, dies at 80

After Charles Colson was sent to prison over a political scandal, the former aide to President Nixon discovered religion and founded a prison ministry in 1976. Colson died Saturday at the age of 80. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

Charles W. Colson, a man who apparently lived nine lives as a Marine, President Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man” and an evangelical prison minister, has died. He was 80.

Read the in-depth story from The New York Times obituary

When Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg was suspected of delivering the so-called Pentagon Papers with top-secret information about the Vietnam War to newspapers, Colson was called on to discredit him.

Get Colson in,” Nixon instructed his chief of staff in a taped meeting in the Oval Office on June 17, 1971, according to The Washington Post. “He’s the best. It’s the Colson type of man that you need.”

Going after Ellsberg led to a religious transformation and a seven-month prison term.

His lawyers advised him not to plead guilty to obstruction of justice charges, but Colson did anyway, the Post reported, as “a price I had to pay to complete the shedding of my old life and to be free to live the new.”

J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

Chuck Colson, founder and chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, died Saturday. He was 80.

According to his web site, chuckcolson.org, Colson spent his final years leading both Prison Fellowship, which he founded, and the Colson Center, an evangelical Christian ministry. He was speaking at a conference at the center when he became dizzy and was then rushed to the hospital. He underwent two hours of surgery to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain, his web site said.

He is survived by his wife, Patty, and three children from his first marriage.

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