WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chuck Colson, an aide to President Richard Nixon who went to jail over the Watergate scandal and later became an evangelical Christian and founder of a prison ministry, was near death on Wednesday at a Northern Virginia hospital, his associate said.
Colson, 80, underwent surgery more than two weeks ago to remove clotting on his brain and there had been some "hopeful signs" during his recovery, Jim Liske, chief executive of Prison Fellowship Ministries, said in a message to staff on the organization's website.
But Liske said Colson's condition deteriorated this week and doctors have advised his family to "gather by his bedside" at the undisclosed hospital.
"I share with you that it appears our friend, brother and founder will soon be home with the Lord," Liske said.
Colson served as counsel to Nixon, and a major part of his job was playing hardball politics. He was convicted for his role in the Watergate scandal which forced Nixon from office in 1974.
Colson became an evangelical Christian, and after serving his sentence he founded the prison fellowship that has grown into a worldwide organization.
Since then, Colson has worked to bring Christian messages and Bible study to prisoners and their families. He also helped found Justice Fellowship to rehabilitate prisoners and bring about prison reform including better job training for inmates.
The Watergate scandal grew out of a 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.
(Reporting By John Crawley; editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Todd Eastham)