Helms and Hunt: The North Carolina Senate Race, 1984

By William D. Snider | Go to book overview

nied having prepared advertisements for Smith, Judge Bailey said, "Maybe Jesse didn't create any of those ads, but I'm pretty sure he saw them all."

Senator Helms is indignant today when critics link him with racist publicity unleashed for Smith. He charges instead that Smith was the "victim of a horrendously improper campaign" that branded him a racist. "Time and time again [ Smith] would reject the proposals made to him about a racist campaign," Helms said.

Helms also said that earlier he had a chance to work for Dr. Graham. He said that he and Dr. Graham were "close friends" and that Graham and Governor Kerr Scott, who had appointed the university president to the Senate, approached him about handling election publicity and a job in Washington if Graham won. "The hardest thing I've ever had to do," Helms says, "was to say, 'Dr. Frank, I love you to death . . . but I don't agree with you philosophically. I can't be in your campaign.'"

The emotional backlash of the Smith-Graham campaign polarized liberals and conservatives in North Carolina. Many considered it the ugliest political contest in a state which had rarely engaged in overt racism during the twentieth century. Whatever Jesse Helms's role may have been in it, the campaign upgraded his career. One year after the primary the young radio reporter went to Washington as an administrative assistant to newly elected Senator Willis Smith.


4. Br'er Rabbit in the Briar Patch

In the early 1950s, while Jim Hunt carved out an impressive high school record in Wilson County, Jesse Helms embarked on a short career as administrative assistant to Senator Willis Smith in Washington. After Smith's unexpected death in 1953, Helms remained briefly with newly appointed Alton Lennon, but then returned to Raleigh as executive director of the North Carolina Bankers' Association.

Helms got only a taste of the heady political life of Washington. It included involvement in Senator Richard Russeirs unsuccessful effort against Adlai Stevenson for the 1952 Democratic presidential nomination and a friendship with Senator Richard Nixon. But that sampling broadened his

-25-

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Helms and Hunt: The North Carolina Senate Race, 1984
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Prologue 3
  • Mr. Clean and the Fire Chief's Son 5
  • I. Patriarch and Upstart 7
  • 2. Salt of the Earth People 10
  • 2. Salt of the Earth People 18
  • 2. Salt of the Earth People 25
  • 5. Too Proud to Be Proud 31
  • Naysayer and Pragmatist 37
  • 6. the Lone Ranger 39
  • 7. a Touch of Camelot and Carter 43
  • 7. a Touch of Camelot and Carter 49
  • 10. a New Direction 58
  • Master Campaigner and Avenging Angel 63
  • Ii. Political Tarnish 65
  • 12. Catching Hand Grenades 70
  • 13. Against the Wind 78
  • 114. Helms at Bay 82
  • 114. Helms at Bay 91
  • 114. Helms at Bay 95
  • 17. That Old-Time Religion 104
  • Epochal Battle or Mud Fight? 111
  • 18. "I'Ll Carry It" 113
  • 19. "Helms Can't Win" 117
  • 20. the D'Aubuisson Connection 122
  • 21. the School of Hard Knox 128
  • 22. the Windsor Story 136
  • 23. When Helms Wasn't Helms 139
  • 24. Time Out for Party Time 146
  • 25. the Big Guns of August 150
  • The Helmsmen Ride High 157
  • 26. a Severe Identity Crisis 159
  • 27. the Reagan Tide 167
  • 28. "Macabre Wild Card" 179
  • 30. Search and Destroy 186
  • 31. a Dead Heat? 194
  • 31. a Dead Heat? 201
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