(CNN) – Former Democratic Rep. Charles Wilson of Texas died Wednesday at age 76, an East Texas hospital said.
The 12-term congressman, who served the state's second congressional district and inspired the 2007 movie "Charlie Wilson's War," had been in a meeting Wednesday morning with a friend when he complained of difficulty breathing, said Yana Ogletree, a spokeswoman for Memorial Medical Center in Lufkin.
The two men were en route to the hospital when they passed an Emergency Medical Services vehicle on the side of the road and stopped for help, she said. Paramedics took him to the hospital emergency room, where he was pronounced dead at 12:16 p.m., she said.
Wilson, who had undergone a heart transplant at Methodist Hospital in Houston in September 2007, moved back to his hometown of Lufkin when he retired in 1997 after having served since 1973, she said.
Tom Hanks portrayed the flamboyant congressman in the 2007 movie "Charlie Wilson's War," which told the story of Wilson's efforts to get weapons to mujahedeen fighters after Soviets invaded Afghanistan.
"Hanks did a great job," Wilson told CNN's Todd Leopold in 2008. Wilson also praised the other actors. "They were too close to the truth," he said.
The U.S. Naval Academy grad and Navy veteran was elected to Congress in 1972 - a Democrat bucking the national Nixon landslide - and quickly became known for his high-living escapades, which earned him the nickname "Good Time Charlie," and shrewd accumulation of political chits.
His savvy came in handy in the early '80s, when Wilson, a staunch anti-Communist, decided to help Afghan rebels in their war against the invading Soviet Union. Over several years, working behind the scenes, his efforts to raise funds through his defense subcommittee, to establish a bond with a CIA agent named Gust Avrakotos (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film) and to negotiate support from Middle Eastern countries helped the Afghans take the upper hand - and eventually forced the Soviets out of the country.
Asked what led to the Soviet departure, Pakistani leader Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq was blunt: "Charlie did it," he told CBS News' 60 Minutes."
Wilson is survived by his wife, Barbara Alberstadt Wilson, a sister, a niece and a nephew.
Funeral arrangements are pending.