Friday, July 04, 2008

Jesse Helms dead at 86

Jesse Helms, the firebrand United States senator whose outspoken, conservative views polarized North Carolina and U.S. voters for decades, died at 1:15 a.m. Friday in Raleigh, according to John Dodd, president of the Jesse Helms Center.

He joins the second, third and fifth presidents of the United States – John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe – who also died on Independence Day.

He was 86. His cause of death was not released. Helms will lie in repose on Monday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Hayes-Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh. His funeral is at 2 p.m. Tuesday also at the church. A private burial will follow.

Helms served five terms in the U.S. Senate, retiring in 2003 because of his faltering health. During his 30 years in Capitol Hill, the North Carolina Republican became a powerful voice for a conservative movement that was growing both in Congress and across the country, and he used his position to speak out against issues like gay rights, federal funding for the arts and U.S. foreign aid.

"I had sought election in 1972 to try to derail the freight train of liberalism that was gaining speed toward its destination of government-run everything, paid for with big tax bills and record debt," Helms wrote in his 2005 memoir, "Here's Where I Stand."

"My goal, when my wife, Dot, and I decided I would run, was to stick to my principles and stand up for conservative ideals."

Jesse Helms was sometimes called "Senator No" because of all the times he was the only one in the Senate with the courage to stand up and say "NO" to some popular bit of the left-wing aganda. He was a conservative through and through and he has been missed since his retirement from politics and he will be even more missed since he has gone to be with the Lord.

I wish we had more like him today.