As a television reporter, I was privileged to cover quite a few interesting people over the course of my career. Former Senator Jesse Helms is definitely on that list. I was assigned to cover the late senator's visit to New Bern, NC in the late 80s. I actually wanted the assignment because I wanted to meet face-to-face with the man whose political career was built around his stand AGAINST civil rights. As he was swarmed by reporters, I became just another face in the crowd---but it was the only "black" face. It was obvious that he had an adoring fan base of North Carolinians who felt the way he did about certain issues. He was "their" voice and he had no problem speaking his mind.
In an editorial written by Columnist Myron Pitts of the Fayetteville News & Observer, he said, "Perhaps no single figure in the 20th century could claim more credit for sowing enmity between whites and blacks in North Carolina, and if you know history, you know that the minority group is always the biggest loser when racial strife reigns."
Helms once called the University of North Carolina the “University of Negroes and Communists,” and once suggested a wall be put around the school to contain its liberal views. He was also a staunch opponent of a national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and ended up casting the only dissenting vote.
Helm's died July 4th. The local media has been portraying him as a man of the people. They say he fought for what he believed in---even at the expense of creating hate and divisiveness in the Tarheel State.
I guess the only thing left to wonder is if Jesse believed there's a segregated place waiting for him in Heaven.