Damon Nelson, the staff director for the House Intelligence Committee, died Saturday following a brief illness.
Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, Nelson’s boss, shared the news in a statement expressing “deep sorrow” for the death of his employee and friend. The California Republican did not provide further detail about Nelson’s illness. Nelson died at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Maryland.
“Having known Damon all the way back to our days together at Tulare Union High School, I have lost one of my oldest friends — someone whom my wife, my three daughters, and I regarded as an extended family member,” Nunes said.
“My offices will no longer ring with Damon’s infectious laugh, which brightened the mood on even the most stressful days,” he added. “He was an expert at finding the humor in any situation and was quick with a well-timed joke. He exhibited a rare combination of good humor, hard work, incredible intelligence, deep patriotism, and selfless dedication to others that made him one of the most exceptional people I’ve ever met.”
Nunes said Nelson worked for him his entire congressional career, starting as his legislative director in 2003 before becoming his deputy chief of staff. When Nunes became chairman of the Intelligence Committee in 2015, Nelson went to work for him there, becoming staff director a year later.
“Damon enjoyed particular loyalty and affection from staffers both in my personal office and on the Intelligence Committee,” Nunes said. “I doubt there’s a single staff member from either office whom Damon didn’t help in matters both large and small. He was a friend, mentor, and boss for dozens of colleagues who deeply loved him and were fiercely protective of him.”
House Intelligence ranking member Adam B. Schiff, who is poised to become chairman next Congress when the new Democratic majority takes over, said in a statement that the committee has lost a family member in Nelson, calling him “a truly decent and caring man — a husband, a friend, and a dedicated public servant.”
“He will be deeply missed, and the Committee won’t be the same without Damon’s consummately professional and steadfast leadership,” the California Democrat said.
Before working on the Hill, Nelson was an in-flight refueling specialist for the U.S. Air Force. He served in the Persian Gulf War, earning an Air Medal and three Air Achievement Medals. He met his wife Dana in the Air Force.
A scholarship fund is being established in Nelson’s honor to help Tulare Union High School graduates attend the College of the Sequoias in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Donations can be made online or mailed to the Damon P. Nelson Memorial Scholarship Fund, COS Foundation, 915 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia, CA 93277.