Jesse Helms

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Jesse Helms
Jesse Helms

Jesse Alexander Helms (born October 18, 1921, Monroe, North Carolina) is a former Republican U.S. Senator from North Carolina.



Helms attended Wingate (NC) Junior College and Wake Forest College. He holds honorary Doctor of Law degrees from many universities including, Bob Jones University, Grove City College, Campbell University, and Wingate University.


He is married to the former Dorothy Jane Coble of Raleigh. He is the father of three children: Jane (Mrs. Charles R. Knox), Nancy (Mrs. John Stuart) of Raleigh and Charles of Winston-Salem, and has seven grandchildren.

Occupations before politics

During World War II Helms served in the United States Navy. Upon leaving the Navy, Helms held numerous positions in numerous fields. These included serving as the Director of the North Carolina Cerebral Palsy Hospital in Durham, the Director of the United Cerebral Palsy of North Carolina, the Director of the Wake County Cerebral Palsy and Rehabilitation Center in Raleigh, serving on the Board of Trustees of Meredith College, John F. Kennedy College, Campbell University and Wingate College. He served as a deacon and a Sunday School teacher at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh and was was one of the founders and serves as a director of Camp Willow Run, a Youth Camp for Christ at Littleton, North Carolina. From 1953 through 1960, Helms was Executive Director of the North Carolina Bankers Association.

In addition, he had an affinity for positions in journalism and broadcasting. These positions included the city editor of The Raleigh Times, the Director of News and Programs for the Tobacco Radio Network and Radio Station WRAL in Raleigh, and the editor of the Tarheel Banker. In 1952, Helms directed the radio-television division of the presidential campaign of Senator Richard B. Russell, Jr. of Georgia, who was seeking the United States Democratic Party nomination. He went on to become the Executive Vice President, Vice Chairman of the Board and assistant Chief Executive Officer of Capitol Broadcasting Company, Raleigh, North Carolina, from 1960 until his election to the Senate.

He also wrote and presented daily editorials on WRAL-TV and the Tobacco Radio Network. His editorials were printed regularly in more than 200 newspapers throughout the United States. They were broadcast by more than 70 radio stations in North Carolina.

Senate Career

Helms began his first term in the Senate in January 1973; was reelected to a second term on November 7, 1978; to a third term on November 6, 1984; a fourth term on November 6, 1990; and a fifth term on November 7, 1996. Helms retired on January 3, 2003. His seat was taken by Elizabeth Dole, a former Red Cross official, presidential cabinet member, and 2000 presidential candidate.

Helms is noted as a staunch conservative and as a rigid anti-Communist.

Helms's retirement was both applauded and mourned by the homosexual community. His anti-gay stance was well-known, but many homosexuals appreciated that his vitriol was so great that it drew mass opposition in their favor. He voted to reject Roberta Achtenberg, President Bill Clinton's nominee for a position at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. When asked by a newspaper why, Helms replied, "because she is a damn lesbian." Oddly enough, celebrated gay writer Armistead Maupin once worked for him at WRAL-TV. In addition, his campaign manager for many of his electoral victories was Arthur Finkelstein who was outed in 1996 as a homosexual who later married his male partner in 2004.

After Politics

Since retiring from the Senate in 2003, Helms has continued working with the Jesse Helms Center in Union County. In September, 2005, Random House is expected to publish Here's Where I Stand, Helms' 303 page personal memoir.[1] (

Awards and Achievements

  • North Carolina Press Association Award for Enterprising Reporting (1941) was awarded to Helms at age 20, making him the youngest reporter, up to that time, to win the award.
  • The Annual Freedoms Foundation Award for Television Editorial Judged Best in America (1962)
  • The Golden Gavel (1973 & 1974) for presiding over the Senate for 117 hours in 1973 and 120 hours in 1974.
  • The Gold Medal of Merit from the Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • The North Carolina American Legionaire Award
  • Legislator of the Year Award by Christians for a Better America (1980)
  • National Man of the Year in Politics by Christian Voice, Inc. (1980)
  • North Carolina Public Service Award (1980)
  • Most Admired Conservative in Congress by readers of Conservative Digest (1980, 1981, 1982)
  • American Security Council Award (1982)
  • Conservative Caucus 97th Congress Statesman Award (1983)
  • The Golden Eagle Award from the American Federation of Police (1987)
  • The "Spirit of Enterprise" Award from the US Chamber of Commerce (1989)
  • The Guardian of Small Business Award from the National Federation of Independent Business
  • The Watchdog of the Treasury Award from the National Associated Businessmen (every year since 1973)
  • The Taxpayer's Best Friend Award from the National Taxpayers' Union (ever year since 1981)
  • Former President of the Raleigh Rotary Club
  • Former President of the Raleigh Executives Club
  • 33rd Degree Freemason, Grand Lodge of Masons of North Carolina (Grand Orator 1965, 1982, 1991)
  • Shriner


On Bill Clinton:

  • "No, I do not. And neither do the people in the armed forces. Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a bodyguard." - Spoken on the 31st anniversary of the Kennedy assassination when asked on CNN if he thought President Clinton was "up to the job" of serving as the commander-in-chief[11/23/94]

On "Latins":

  • "All Latins are volatile people. Hence, I was not surprised at the volatile reaction." - Stated by Helms after Mexicans protested his visit to Mexico in 1986 to investigate allegations of political corruption

On his beliefs:

  • "I fight for what I believe. If you are not willing to stand up for what you believe, your beliefs are not strong enough." (1984)

On The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

  • "The University of Negroes and Communists." - Helms' name for the school during the mid-1960's, shortly after it began admitting black students. (FAIR 9/1/01, National Review 8/23/01)

On diversity:

  • "White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories? Frank Graham favors mingling of the races." - From an attack ad Helms helped create while working on the 1950 campaign of Republican Willis Smith against Democrat Frank Porter Graham. Another ad featured photographs Helms himself had doctored to illustrate the allegation that Graham's wife had danced with a black man. (FAIR 9/1/01, The News and Observer 8/26/01)

External links

Preceded by:
B. Everett Jordan
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from North Carolina
Succeeded by:
Elizabeth Dole

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