In Senate, Helms Led 16-Day-Filibuster Against Federal Holiday For Martin Luther King Jr.
Senator Jesse Helms was born in Monroe, North Carolina in 1921.
He was elected to the Senate and served six consecutive terms from 1973-2003.
For 30 years, he was a conservative leader and organized the Reagan Revolution of the 1980’s.
Most importantly though, Helms never compromised and kept his personal values.
Throughout his life, Helms repeatedly opposed abortion, feminism, affirmative action, civil rights, and gay rights.
In the 60’s, Helms began writing editorials WRAL TV in Raleigh, North Carolina.
In a 1963 editorial, he claimed “the negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that’s thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men’s rights.”
Helms also believed “crime rates and irresponsibility among negroes are a fact of life which must be faced“. He claimed the civil rights movement was infested and promoted by communists and “moral degenerates” and described Medicaid as a “step over into the swampy field of socialized medicine“.
His editorials also criticized the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Helms claimed UNC actually stood for “The University of Negroes and Communists” and suggested a wall should be built around the campus to prevent the school from “infecting” the rest of the state.
These editorials were extremely popular among the people of North Carolina. In 1972, they elected him to the United States Senate.
Throughout his political career, Helms was a strict traditionalist. He typically opposed new ideas and was given the nickname “Senator No“.
In a 2008 article from the Louisiana Weekly, Cash Michaels claimed Helms opposed “every piece of civil rights and affirmative action legislation” and blocked “black judges from being considered for the federal bench”.
Helms famously led the Senate opposition to establishing Martin Luther King Day as a federal holiday in 1983. He started a 16-day filibuster and demanded the FBI file on Martin Luther King Jr. be released to the public. The file contained evidence that Martin Luther King was a Communist and commonly participated in sex orgies.
In 1993, Helms entered an elevator with his friend, Senator Orrin Hatch. Carol Moseley Braun, the first black woman elected to the United States senate was already in the elevator.
When Helms saw her, he turned to Senator Hatch and said “Watch me make her cry. I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing “Dixie” until she cries.” Helms then proceeded to sing the song about “the good life” during slavery.
Helms was also known for criticizing immorality on the floor of the Senate.
After the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1972, he introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn their decision. His attempt was unsuccessful but Helms continued to speak out against abortion.
In 1987, Helms added an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Act which allowed the President to add HIV to the list of diseases which prevent both travel and immigration to the United States (HIV was recently removed from the list by Barack Obama in 2009).
In a 1989 speech on the floor of the Senate, Helms declared “there is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy“.
In 1993, Helms opposed President Clinton’s nomination of Roberta Achtenberg, an openly homosexual Jewish feminist as the Assistant Secretary at the Department of Housing.
When critics asked Helms why he opposed Achternberg, he replied “because she’s a damn lesbian“. Later he added, “She’s not your garden-variety lesbian. She’s a militant-activist-mean lesbian“.
Later he declared “I’m not going to put a lesbian in a position like that. If you want to call me a bigot, fine.”
In another speech from the floor of the Senate in 1995, Helms declared AIDS was “God’s punishment for homosexuals” due to their “deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct“.
Helms also claimed homosexuals “weak, morally sick wretches” and tried to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts for supporting the “gay-oriented artwork of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe”.
In an interview with the New York Times, he claimed “nothing positive happened to Sodom and Gomorrah and nothing positive is likely to happen to America if our people succumb to the drumbeats of support for the homosexual lifestyle.”
Helms drew heavy criticism from the LGBT community for his positions but never backed down.
In a 1989 interview with the New York Times, Helms declared “I didn’t come to Washington to be a yes man for any president, Democrat or Republican. I didn’t come to Washington to get along and win any popularity contests.”
When Helms died in 2008, Rob Christensen from The News & Observer explained “In a world where give-and-take is the key to success, Helms refused to play the game of compromise. Rather than get together with opponents to work out their differences, Helms preferred to stand his ground in defeat.”
Jett & Jahn Media honors American Hero Senator Jesse Helms for sacrificing himself and doing everything he could to defend America.
“Atheism and socialism – or liberalism, which tends in the same direction – are inseparable entities: when you have men who no longer believe that God is in charge of human affairs, you have men attempting to take the place of God by means of the superstate.”
Jesse Helms: “When Free Men Shall Stand”: 1976
This article is part five of the “American Heroes” series: