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Jesse Helms Dead at 86

Jim Burroway

July 4th, 2008

Jesse HelmsFormer Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina died today. He was 86.

You can search the archives of this web site and see that I have never before called anyone a bigot. It’s just something that I generally don’t do. But the word was coined precisely to describe people like Helms. He was a genuine, unabashed bigot, and he made his bigotry a hallmark of his career. Now that he is dead, his bigotry will be enshrined as his lasting legacy.

Throughout his public career, Helms was always on the wrong side of history. During his daily editorial broadcasts on Raleigh’s WRAL-TV, he railed against desegregation, calling the University of North Carolina the “University of Negroes and Communists.” In 1968 when Duke University students staged a vigil in response to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, he remarked, “They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro.”

He held a special antipathy toward gays and lesbians. In a 1995 radio broadcast he remarked, “Homosexuals are weak, morally sick wretches.” He opposed governmental funds for AIDS research, complaining that “It’s their deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct that is responsible for the disease.” He opposed funding for research, treatment, and providing medically accurate information about the disease. We may never know how many people died partly because of his intransigence.

Jesse HelmsTwenty years later, we are still trying to undo Helms’ damage. He was responsible for the HIV travel ban, barring visitors and immigrants with HIV from entering the United States. The U.S. is one of only twelve countries in the world with such a ban. We share that distinction with the likes of Sudan, Russia, Libya and Saudi Arabia. The ban’s repeal is awaiting a vote in the Senate, which may come as early as next week.

The bigot is dead. Happy Independence Day.



July 4th, 2008 | LINK

He was still alive?

July 4th, 2008 | LINK

Norm: He didn’t retire from politics until 2003, for health reasons. Jim’s right in that it will take quite some effort to fix the effects of this KKK member’s legacy.

July 4th, 2008 | LINK

Anyone want to join me in singing “Ding-dong, the witch is dead?”

Timothy Kincaid
July 4th, 2008 | LINK


I can find no evidence that Helms was ever a member of the KKK. Please provide support for your accusation.

July 4th, 2008 | LINK

Not sure of the date on this, but from what I can gather, it’s at least from the late 90’s.

James Dobson in a speech to the CNP:

“The man who has probably fought more for the things we believe in than anybody in Congress is Jesse Helms, but he bailed on that one. Jesse Helms bailed out on that. $900 million to Planned Parenthood…”

P.S. I thought he was already dead too.

July 4th, 2008 | LINK

He’ll never appear on a stamp. Bigots never do.

July 4th, 2008 | LINK

The population of Hell just grew by 1.

July 8th, 2008 | LINK

This is rare for a vegetarian and a pacifist: I’m glad he’s dead.

July 8th, 2008 | LINK

Way to go, Jim! Wait until the man is dead before calling him a bigot. That’s really classy.

Helms was not in the KKK, AlexM. You’re thinking of Robert Byrd from West Virginia.

Jim Burroway
July 8th, 2008 | LINK

“Wait until the man is dead before calling him a bigot.”

I would have been very happy to have called him a bigot while he was alive. And I did — just not on this blog. But that’s only because he hasn’t been in the news since the web site started. Like I said, there really are people in this world for which the word was coined.

Ben in Oakland
July 9th, 2008 | LINK

Personally, I would have preferred it if he had stayed alive for another decade, bound in his wheelchair of absolute misery. Perhaps he could have come to the realization that he was not G’s Chosen One on earth

December 4th, 2009 | LINK

Sometimes was he wrong yes but overall he stood up for what he believed in and he helped my dad whenever he needed help in the military i think he was a great man!

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