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Jesse Helms

American politician

Died when: 86 years 260 days (1040 months)
Star Sign: Libra


Jesse Helms

Jesse Alexander Helms Jr. (October 18, 1921 – July 4, 2008) was an American journalist, media executive, and politician.A leader in the conservative movement, he served as a senator from North Carolina from 1973 to 2003.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1995 to 2001 he had a major voice in foreign policy.Helms helped organize and fund the conservative resurgence in the 1970s, focusing on Ronald Reagan's quest for the White House as well as helping many local and regional candidates.

Helms was the longest-serving popularly elected Senator in North Carolina's history.He was widely credited with shifting the one-party state into a competitive two-party state.

He advocated the movement of conservatives from the Democratic Party – which they deemed too liberal – to the Republican Party.

The Helms-controlled National Congressional Club's state-of-the-art direct mail operation raised millions of dollars for Helms and other conservative candidates, allowing Helms to outspend his opponents in most of his campaigns.

Helms was the most stridently conservative politician of the post-1960s era, especially in opposition to federal intervention into what he considered state affairs (including legislating integration via the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and enforcing suffrage through the Voting Rights Act of 1965).

As 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.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 conservative.He was a master obstructionist who relished his nickname, "Senator No".He combined cultural, social and economic conservatism, which often helped his legislation win wide public support.

He fought what he considered to be liberalism by opposing civil rights, disability rights, feminism, gay rights, affirmative action, access to abortions, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Helms brought an "aggressiveness" to his conservatism, as in his rhetoric against homosexuality.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".

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