Charles Wendell Colson was born in Boston in October, 1931. After graduating from Brown University Colson joined the U.S. Marine Corps (1953-55). This was followed by the post of Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1955–56).
Colson was a member of the Republican Party and in 1956 he became Administration Assistant to Senator Leverett Saltonstall. In 1961 Colson became a partner in the Gadsby and Hannah Law Firm.
In 1969 Colson was appointed to the White House staff as Counsel to President Richard Nixon. Colson also began involved in the activities of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). On 20th March, 1971, at a meeting of CREEP it was agreed to spend $250,000 "intelligence gathering" operation against the Democratic Party.
Colson and John Ehrlichman appointed E. Howard Hunt as a member of the White House Special Investigations Unit. On 15th May Arthur Bremer attempted to assassinate George Wallace. As a result Colson ordered Hunt to break into Bremer's apartment to see if he could find any information that the Democratic Party was involved in the assassination. However, some have claimed that Hunt's role was to remove incriminating documents from Bremer's home.
It was also decided to place electronic devices in the Democratic Party campaign offices in an apartment block called Watergate. The main objective was to wiretap the conversations of Larry O'Brien. This was not successful and on 3rd July, 1972, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard L. Barker and James W. McCord returned to O'Brien's office. However, this time they were caught by the police.
The phone number of E.Howard Hunt was found in address books of the burglars. Reporters were now able to link the break-in to the White House. Bob Woodward, a reporter working for the Washington Post was told by a friend who was employed by the government, that senior aides of President Richard Nixon, had paid the burglars to obtain information about its political opponents.
In 1972 Richard Nixon was once again selected as the Republican presidential candidate. On 7th November, Nixon easily won the the election with 61 per cent of the popular vote.
The trial of Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard L. Barker, James W. McCord, E. Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy began in Washington in January, 1973. All the men refused to explain who paid them to take part in the break-in. As a result they all received long prison sentences.
On 19th March, James W. McCord wrote a letter to Judge John J. Sirica claiming that the defendants had pleaded guilty under pressure (from John Dean and John N. Mitchell) and that perjury had been committed during the trial. Soon afterwards Dean also began providing information on Watergate. This included the claim that Richard Nixon participated in the cover-up.
Colson also began cooperating with federal prosecutors. In 1974, Colson entered a plea of guilty to Watergate-related charges. He also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Daniel Ellsberg case. He was given a one-to-three year sentence. However, he only served seven months at Alabama's Maxwell Prison.
In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which has become the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families. Colson has visited prisons throughout the US and the world and has built a movement working with more than 40,000 prison ministry volunteers, with ministries in 100 countries. Colson became highly critical of the prison system and in 1983 he established Justice Fellowship, a faith-based criminal justice reform group.
On 3rd October, 2002, Colson signed a letter which outlined his theological support for a just war pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. The letter outlined how a preemptive invasion of Iraq met the criteria of traditional 'just war' theory: (1) such an action would be defensive; (2) the intent is just and noble; (3) the United States does not intend to 'destroy, conquer, or exploit Iraq'; (4) it is a last resort because Saddam Hussein had a record of attacking his neighbors, developing biochemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction and their use against his own people, and harboring Al Qaeda terrorists; (5) it is authorized by a legitimate authority, namely the United States; (6) it has limited goals; (7) it has reasonable expectation of success; (8) non-combatant immunity would be observed; (9) it meets the criteria of proportionality - the human cost on both sides would be justified by the intended outcome.