Jesse Helms,Â conservative, racist, Republican, former North Carolina senator has died. He was 86 years old.
Nicknamed “Senator No”, the conservative, former segregationist, Republican who for years directed his vitriol at anyone who was not white, male, Christian, straight and small town southern, has been described by some as the “Great Satan” of the Republican Party for his conservative stance on nuclear arms, negotiating with nations with whom we disagree, the environment, civil liberties issues and equal employment opportunity for blacks.Helms was raised a Southern Baptist during the era when few white congregations questioned racial segregation in the south.Â An unofficial subdenomination of this group developed over the years, one that isÂ exclusive (racist), judgmental and a particularly nationalistic strain of Christianity. It became legitimate in the 1970s under various names… the Silent Majority, the Moral Majority, the Christian Right. Helms was aÂ poster boy for the Christian conservative movement.
He served in the Navy during World War II. He was a former journalist who rose to the position of executiveÂ vice president of Capitol Broadcasting in Raleigh, North Carolina. Helms is the man who famously called the University of North Carolina the “University of Negroes and Communists”.
According to Merle Black professor of political science at Emory University Helms “.. represented North Carolina as though blacks were not voting. He has always been a voice for nativist, white conservatives in North Carolina.”
In 1996 Helms ran against against a black man for the senate seat. Harvey Gantt, architect and former mayor of Charlotte was narrowly defeated by Helms, whose campaign was successful using racial fear to appeal to the voters.
The singer from U2, Bono met with the then senator in 2002 to influence Helms to help end the AIDS crisis n Africa.
Bono has often been criticized for working with anyone to bring relief to those who suffer in the region. Senator Helms had spent years slashing funding from the foreign aid budget. It was Jesse Helms who declared in 1995, when he told The New York Times that the government should spend less money on people with AIDS because they got sick as a result of “deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct.”
After his meeting with Bono Helms said he was ashamed. “I have been too lax too long in doing something really significant about AIDS.” What did Bono say to cause Helms to change his mind?
Bono says he told the senator “Christ only speaks about judgment once and it’s not about sex but about how we deal with the poor, and I quoted Matthew, ‘I was naked and you clothed me, I was hungry and you fed me.’ Jesse got very emotional, and the next day he brought in the reporters and publicly repented about Aids. I explained to him that AIDS was like the leprosy of the New Testament.”
From an article written by Helms for TIME Magazine published in 2006: “Senator Bill Frist and I were allies in creating and passing a bill to commit $200 million to fight AIDS in Africa.”
The appropriation came before he retired from the senate in 2002, choosing not to run for office yet again. We think Jesse Helms’ change in attitude is one of the reasons for his retirement. Being old, and feeble in health, we think with his announcement of helping the inhabitants of Africa he was trying to make points with the Almighty in his race for Heaven.
Helms died on July 4th, American Independence Day as did other historic figures, presidents Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Monroe.
Jesse Helms former North Carolina senator was an isolationist and resistant to the changes being manifest in the “new” south. He fought to uphold all the traditions of the confederacy.
“Senator Helms leaves behind a strong legacy of fighting for the freedoms that make America great,” says North Carolina Representative Virginia Fox.
The way we see it Helms’ legacy is one of hatred, homophobia and racism.
Rest in peace.