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Hardline Senator Jesse Helms dies at 86

Latest update : 2008-07-04

Former conservative U.S. lawmaker Jesse Helms, who served five terms as Senator for North Carolina, died on Friday.

WASHINGTON, July 4 (Reuters) - Former U.S. Sen. Jesse
Helms, a die-hard anti-communist firebrand who championed a
wide range of conservative causes in his 30 years in the
Senate, died early on Friday, aged 86, his foundation said.
 

A blunt-talking product of the Old South, the North
Carolina lawmaker was known as "Senator No" for opposing just
about anything that obstructed his conservative view of the
world.
 

Helms died at 1:15 a.m. in Raleigh, North Carolina,
according to a notice on the Web site of the Jesse Helms
Center, a foundation established to promote his legacy.
 

The one-time radio commentator turned congressional power
broker pursued an ideological agenda that was anti-communist,
anti-liberal, anti-gay and anti-affirmative action. He also
held a deep distrust of international organizations and many
foreign governments.
 

Helms retired in 2003 after five terms in the Senate.
 

"He was one of the giants of the 80s and 90s in the United
States Senate," former Republican Sen. Trent Lott of
Mississippi told Fox News.
 

For years, he played a key role in U.S. foreign policy as
chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
embracing a strong U.S. national defense and what he regarded
as a moral foreign policy.
 

CONSERVATIVE HERO
 

This made the Republican curmudgeon a hero to fellow
American conservatives, yet a villain at home and abroad to
those who saw him as a symbol of U.S. isolationism and a foe of
social progress. His name became synonymous with social
conservatism.
 

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group,
said the defeat of Soviet communism and the rise of the late
President Ronald Reagan would not have happened without Helms'
"intrepid leadership at decisive times."
 

Helms served as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee
while Republicans controlled the Senate from 1995 to 2001. But
no matter which party had control, Helms was a force in
Congress, even when failing health forced him to travel the
halls of Congress seated on a motorized scooter.
 

In his 2005 memoir "Here's Where I Stand," Helms explained
he had embraced the "Doctor No" nickname: "It wasn't meant as a
compliment, but I certainly took it as one. There was plenty to
stand up and say 'No!' to during my first term in the U.S.
Senate."
 

His battles with the United Nations led to a 1999 deal to
repay U.S. debts to the world body in return for U.N. reforms,
and he co-sponsored legislation that invoked economic sanctions
to punish foreign businesses that invest in Cuba.
 

In March 2002, Helms made headlines and received praise
from some former critics when he expressed regret for being a
latecomer to the global fight against AIDS and vowed to press
for more money to combat the disease in his final tour of
Capitol Hill.
 
 

Date created : 2008-07-04

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