Jesse Helms Center Archives
30 Years and 7 Presidents
Senator Helms was in office from 1973 to 2003. In those thirty years he worked with seven Presidents and each relationship was very different. Throughout the changing administrations, Helms had his beliefs and principles and remained steadfast no matter who sat in the Oval Office.
Jesse Helms first met Richard Nixon while working for Senator Willis Smith in the 1950s. Helms supported Nixon’s 1968 Presidential campaign and worked with Nixon after being elected in 1972. After the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign, he and Helms kept in touch until Nixon’s death in 1994.
When Senator Helms was first elected Gerald Ford was the House Minority Leader. Just two years later, Ford moved into the Oval Office and while they didn’t always see eye to eye, Helms thought President Ford was honest and had strong character.
Senator Helms wrote, “President Jimmy Carter and I rarely found ourselves in agreement, much to the surprise of those who assumed two sons of the South would be mirror images.” Helms and Carter did have a lot in common but they had very different political ideologies. One of the most significant causes for disagreement was over United States Foreign Policy.
Jesse Helms first met Ronald Reagan in the early 1960s while still working for WRAL-TV in Raleigh. Reagan supported Helms in his 1972 Senate campaign and when Reagan ran for President in 1976 Helms was one of the first to publicly endorse the new candidate. Although Reagan did not win the Republican nomination he made quite an impact and garnered enough support to eventually lead him to victory in 1980 and in 1984.
Senator Helms had a long standing relationship with George H. W. Bush prior to him becoming the 41st President of the United States. Helms considered Bush “one of the most principled men we’ve ever had in government.”
For the majority of Clinton’s time in the White House, Senator Helms was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The two men had very different political ideologies but were able to work together on number of key issues, such as the Helms-Biden Act that reformed the U.S.-U.N. relationship. Clinton and Helms were often able to put aside their differences, reach across the aisle and do what was best for the country.
Senator Helms’ last day in office was in January 2003 and he was not in the Senate for most of George W. Bush’s presidency. He did support Bush during his 2000 campaign and supported the President and the country after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.