Helms, Jesse Alexander

Helms, Jesse Alexander, 1921–2008, U.S. senator from North Carolina (1973–2003), b. Monroe, N.C. He served in the navy, chiefly as a recruiter, during World War II. A local radio broadcasting executive (1948–51), Helms gained prominence (1960–72) as a staunchly conservative, segregation-defending Raleigh, N.C., radio and television commentator and a syndicated newspaper columnist. He also served (1957–61) on the Raleigh City Council. In 1970 he changed his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican, and in 1972 he was elected to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina. Known for his outspoken, often unyielding support of right-wing causes, Helms retired after serving five terms in the Senate. He championed a strong military establishment and prayer in the public schools while opposing school busing, civil-rights legislation, foreign aid, gun control, abortion rights, gay rights, and government support for the arts. A polarizing figure, he often blocked Senate votes, forced roll calls, and opposed presidents, earning him the nickname “Senator No.” Helms chaired the Senate agriculture committee (1981–87) and foreign relations committee (1995–2001).

See his memoir (2005); biography by W. A. Link (2008).

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