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Oklahoma’s Watts rejects run for re-election to Congress

WASHINGTON (BP)–Rep. J.C. Watts, the lone black Republican in Congress and a former Southern Baptist youth pastor, will leave the House of Representatives at the end of this term.

Watts, 44, a representative from Oklahoma and chairman of the House Republican Conference, announced July 1 he would not run for a fifth two-year term in November.

“Of course, the work of America is never done, but I believe that my work in the House of Representatives, at this time in my life, is completed,” Watts said at a news conference in Norman, Okla. “It is time to return home, to go on with other things in my life and assuming one of the most honored titles in all of America — citizen.

“Retiring from Congress does not mean retreating from the public arena,” he said. “Our democracy is based on citizen participation, and, as a citizen, I intend to participate vigorously in the great ongoing debate over the future of the most wonderful nation in all the world.”

In retiring, Watts resisted requests by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others to run for re-election, The Washington Post reported.

After his initial election to represent Oklahoma’s Fourth District in 1994, Watts quickly became a spokesman for the GOP. He delivered the party’s response to President Clinton’s State of the Union address in 1997. The year before, Watts spoke at the GOP national convention. In 1998, he was elected Republican Conference chairman, the fourth highest post in the House.

He has been a frequent advocate of the pro-life and pro-family causes. He also has been a House leader of legislation to aid faith-based organizations seeking to minister to the needy.

Before his election in 1994, Watts served for nearly eight years as youth pastor at Sunnylane Baptist Church in Del City, Okla. His family and he now are members of Bethel Baptist Church in Norman. Both churches are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

In college, Watts became known nationally as the quarterback of the University of Oklahoma football team. He was named most valuable player in OU’s Orange Bowl victories in 1980 and 1981. He also played five years in the Canadian Football League.

Watts and his wife, Frankie, have five children.

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