Highlights for Jesse Helms
In 2002, Jesse Helms announced his decision not to seek reelection as United States Senator for North Carolina. He made his announcement from the studios of WRAL-TV, where he gained recognition with his editorials titled, “ViewPoint.”
Helms was the longest-serving popularly elected Senator in North Carolina’s history. He served from January 3, 1973 to January 3, 2003.
WRAL News anchor David Crabtree interviewed Senator Helms after his announcement. They covered a variety of subjects ranging from politics, his reputation as “Senator No,” his relationship with the media, and the tradition of senators carving their initials inside their desk.
Jesse Alexander Helms, Jr. was born October 18, 1921 and died July 4, 2008.
In 1948, WRAL Radio President Fred Fletcher hired Helms as the News Director for WRAL-AM, WRAL-FM and the company’s two growing networks—the Tobacco Radio Network and the Tobacco Sports Network.
During the next few years Helms ran CBC’s radio news department and developed an intense interest in politics. He began spending spare time working on the 1950 U.S. Senate campaign of Willis Smith, who beat Frank Porter Graham in a hotly-contested election.
After the successful campaign, Senator Smith hired Helms away from WRAL and brought him to Washington as his Administrative Assistant. Helms served capably in that capacity until Smith died suddenly in 1953. He then worked briefly for Alton Lennon—Smith’s successor, but returned to Raleigh before the year ended.
In 1960, the time was right for a reunion between Jesse Helms and his old friend, A.J. Fletcher. In a move that would change his life and career, Helms joined Capitol Broadcasting Company as its Executive Vice President, Vice Chairman of the Board, and Assistant Executive Officer.
In his new role at CBC, Jesse Helms’ chief responsibility was to write and express the views and positions of the company on a variety of topics. He communicated those positions in daily editorials on WRAL-TV and Capitol Broadcasting’s radio outlets. The commentaries were called “Viewpoint,” and the segment title became synonymous with Jesse Helms.
In early 1972, Jesse Helms filed as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, and the Viewpoint editorials that had made him famous came to an end. Helms left Capitol Broadcasting Company and that fall won the bellwether election that would send him to Washington for the next thirty years.
Jesse Helms died July 4, 2008. He was 86.
This interview was conducted by WRAL News anchor David Crabtree in 2006 for a special presentation of the 50th anniversary of the station.
The friendship between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and NC Senator Jesse Helms was special. Both fought for conservative principles in their countries. Helms stood by Thatcher and President Reagan as they fought to bring down the Iron Curtain. In April, 2001 Lady Margaret Thatcher served as the guest speaker at the grand opening the A.J. Fletcher Building, a 23,000 square-foot interactive museum that now serves as the headquarters for the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate, North Carolina. In his 2005 memoir “Here’s Where I Stand” Helms wrote, “From the beginning I knew she would be a leader like few the world has seen.”
The video features a meet and greet time with Thatcher and a Question and Answer session that took place April 27, 2001 at Quail Hollow Country Club, Charlotte, N.C. On April 28, 2001 Helms and Thatcher cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Jesse Helms Center, followed by a speech by Prime Minister Thatcher.
The Right Honorable Margaret Thatcher ends her speech by quoting poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
“Sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
is hanging breathless on thy fate!”
May God always bless America!
WRAL sports anchor Tom Suiter shows Senator Jesse Helms letter of recommendation that Helms wrote for Suiter. The letter helped Suiter land his first job at WRAL.
WRAL-TV News Reporter Leila Tvedt covered the campaign of Republican Jesse Helms, while reporter Don Kobos covered Democrat John Ingram during the 1978 election.