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Republican, Jesse Helms was a United States Senator from North Carolina who served for five terms (1973-2003). He was known for his right-wing politics and opposition to civil rights legislation.
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Helms fought against busing for school integration and opposed creating the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Race figured prominently in Helms's 1990 and 1996 re-election campaigns against Harvey Gantt,
a former mayor of Charlotte and an African American. Some of his advertisements featured language and imagery to play on some white people's concerns about affirmative action. His 1996 campaign was also cited by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating civil rights and voting laws.
Not long after being elected to his fifth consecutive term in 1996, Helms began to experience some health problems. He had knee replacement surgery in 1998 and successfully battled prostate cancer as well as a rare bone disease. In January 2002, Helms announced his retirement from the Senate and had surgery to replace a valve in his heart a few months later.
In 2005, Helms provided admirers and detractors with an inside look into his life with his autobiography, Here's Where I Stand. In the book, he stated that he was "not the least bit racist"; and took aim at the news media, saying that it does not support traditional values.
Helms married Dorothy "Dot" Coble in 1942. The couple had three children, Jane, Nancy, and Charles.
Jesse Helms died July 4, 2008, of natural causes in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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