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Biography of Jesse Helms

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Common Questions

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Common Questions about Jesse Helms

What is a Senator? Where do they work?
Senators are people who are elected to represent their state in the United States Senate. There are 100 Senators (2 from each of the 50 states). A Senator represents the people from his/her state by writing and voting on bills. A Senator also helps the people from his/her state with any problems they might have with the government. Senators work both in their offices and in their meeting space at the United States Capitol. Senators also spend plenty of time meeting with people from their state so that they discuss ways to solve problems and make the government operate better.

How do people become Senators?
Senators must be at least 30 years old, be a citizen of the United States for at least 9 years and a resident of the state they want to represent. Senators are elected, which means people over the age of 18 vote to select which candidate (person) who they think will do this best job. Once a Senator is elected, they work in that job for 6 years. If they want to keep their job as a Senator they have to win another election at the end of 6 years.

When did Jesse Helms become a Senator? How long did he serve as a Senator?
Jesse Helms was born and raised in the small town of Monroe, North Carolina. After attending college and working as a newspaper reporter, Helms decided to enter into broadcast journalism (radio and television). With the encouragement of his wife Dorothy, and other close family and friends, Helms decided to run for the United States Senate as a Republican (he was previously a Democrat). He was elected to the United States Senate in 1972. He represented North Carolina as a U.S. Senator for 30 years, which means he was re-elected to his job 5 times. He retired from the United States Senate at the end of 2001.

What were some of Jesse Helms’ greatest accomplishments?
Jesse Helms was a great supporter of his friend Ronald Reagan during the 1976 presidential election. Even though Ronald Reagan did not become President that year, Reagan and others have acknowledged that Jesse Helms’ help was critical in his eventual election to the White House. Jesse Helms was a leading advocate for many important issues including the right to prayer in schools, the right to life, the need for a balanced budget and the fight to return democracy to communist nations. Jesse Helms was the first legislator from any country to speak to the United Nations Security Council in January 2000. Jesse Helms was the first North Carolinian in 176 years to serve as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (one of the most important roles a Senator can have). Helms held this position from 1995-2001. In 2000, Jesse Helms co-authored and supported the funding of over $600 million for AIDS treatment and relief in Africa and other poor nations. He did this after learning more about the devastating illness through his friendship with rock star Bono.

Why was Jesse Helms called Senator No?
Even though Jesse Helms was an important Senator, he always said that the only thing he was running for was “the kingdom of God.” He cared very deeply about doing what was honorable and right. He never wanted to do things that were against his principles. Because he knew exactly what he believed, he often had to vote against certain bills and ideas. This led newspaper reporters and newspaper cartoonists to jokingly call him “Senator No,” because to them, it seemed like he said “No” a lot! But he wasn’t trying to be difficult when he said “No,” he just wanted what was best for his constituents (the people who he represented and who lived in his state) and he wanted to do what was right based on his principles.

Research Resources

Senator Helms’ biography, Here’s Where I Stand, is available to use for research on Google Books.

Senator Helms’ book about foreign policy principles is also available to use for research on Google Books.

The North Carolina History Project has a great encyclopedia of stories and people.

The Bill of Rights Institute has a student resources section with games, videos and information about the Bill of Rights and other founding documents.

The History of the U.S. Senate includes statistics, facts and profiles of current and former Senators.

The U.S. Mint for Kids has educational resources about money.