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- Created 2012-04-21
Jesse Alexander Helms, Jr.
(October 18, 1921 – July 4, 2008) was a five-term
United States Senator
who served as chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
from 1995 to 2001. A leading conservative, he helped organize and fund the conservative resurgence in the 1970s, aiding
's quest for the White House and helping many local and regional candidates.
A journalist by training, Helms was the longest-serving popularly elected Senator in North Carolina's history, and was widely credited with shifting the one-party state dominated by the Democrats into a competitive two-party state. The Helms-controlled National Congressional Club's state-of-the-art
operation raised millions for Helms and other conservative candidates allowing Helms to outspend his opponents in most of his campaigns.
An unreconstructed Southern conservative, he began his political career in the
in the days when many white Southern politicians championed
. He moved to the Republican party in the 1970s. Helms was the most stridently conservative politician of the post-1960s era, especially in opposition to federal intervention into what he considered state affairs (
Civil Rights Act
Voting Rights Act
). Helms tried, with a 16-day
, to stop the Senate from approving
a federal holiday
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Helms was credited even by his most vociferous opponents with providing excellent constituent services through his Senate office.
As long-time chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he demanded a staunchly anti-communist foreign policy that would reward America's friends abroad, and punish its enemies. His relations with the State Department were often acrimonious, and he blocked numerous presidential appointees. However, he worked smoothly with Secretary of State
In domestic affairs, Helms promoted industrial development in the South, seeking low taxes and few labor unions so as to attract northern and international corporations to relocate to North Carolina.
On social issues, Helms was a traditionalist. He was a "master obstructionist" who relished his nickname, "Senator No". He opposed, at various times,
, and government support for contemporary art with graphic sexuality. Helms brought an "aggressiveness" to his conservatism, as in his rhetoric against homosexuality, and employed
racially charged language
in his campaigns and editorials. He combined cultural, social and economic conservatism which often helped his legislation win overwhelming support. The
Almanac of American Politics
once wrote that "no American politician is more controversial, beloved in some quarters and hated in others, than Jesse Helms".
from Wikipedia (last updated: 20 May), licensed under
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Jesse Helms Center
Articles About Senator Helms
Liberty University's Helms School of Government
Senator No: Jesse Helms
Oral History Interview with Jesse Helms
Oral Histories of the American South
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