Helms and Hunt: The North Carolina Senate Race, 1984

By William D. Snider | Go to book overview

30. Search and Destroy

As Congress adjourned in mid-October, Jesse Helms returned to the campaign circuit in North Carolina, having made an intriguing about-face in strategy. On a foray into the Piedmont the senator took with him two prominent, nationally known blacks: Roosevelt ("Rosey") Grier, the former Los Angeles Rams lineman and friend of the late Robert Kennedy, and Bill Keyes, a former Reagan White House adviser, now head of Black PAC, an organization attempting to win black supporters for conservative candidates.

Helms explained that he "hadn't done anything to communicate one on one" with blacks during his twelve-year senatorial career, except those he knew personally in Raleigh and Washington. "I think after the election maybe I ought to do a little better. I ought to make an effort to communicate more--not for political purposes but so we can have an understanding about what brotherhood is and about what sound economics are and that sort of thing."

Grier, the tall, beefy athlete who had wrestled Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, to the floor in Los Angeles and had since turned to religious revivalism, was an enthusiastic campaigner. "I believe this man Jesse Helms is a great American. . . . He's my brother," he said. Keyes noted that Black PAC was pushing candidates who "favor traditional moral values" and said he was not "bothered" by Helms's past hostility to civil rights legislation. He had known Helms for six years, he said, and "found him to be a very caring person."

At his first public appearance with Grier and Keyes, in Greensboro, Helms was also accompanied by three Republican senators--Chic Hecht of Nevada, John Chafee of Rhode Island, and Robert Kasten of Wisconsin. But for his trip the next day to small, predominantly black Livingstone College (750 students), in Salisbury, the senator had with him only the two out-of-state black visitors and his press secretary, Claude Allen, also black. Helms had been invited to speak on the colleges lecture series, and when he showed up, he was greeted by some one hundred silent black students locked together arm-in-arm outside Varick Auditorium. Helms extended his right hand to one of the students, but the youth refused to shake hands. Helms moved on, saying "Just the same, I love you." Asked by reporters why he refused to shake hands, the student said: "Why should I put my hand in the dirt?"

-186-

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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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