Jesse Alexander Helms (born October 18, 1921, Monroe, North Carolina) is a former U.S. Senator.
Helms attended Wingate (NC) Junior College and Wake Forest College. He holds honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina and Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania, and he has received Honorary Degrees from Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina and Wingate University, Wingate, North Carolina.
Helms served in the United States Navy from 1942 through 1945. After World War II, he became the city editor of The Raleigh Times, then was Director of News and Programs for the Tobacco Radio Network and Radio Station WRAL, in Raleigh.
From 1951 to 1953 Helms served as Administrative Assistant to Senator Willis Smith, then Senator Alton Lennon in 1953.
In 1952, Helms directed the radio-television division of the presidential campaign of Senator Richard B. Russell, Jr. of Georgia, who was seeking the United States Democratic Party nomination.
From 1953 through 1960, Helms was Executive Director of the North Carolina Bankers Association, and served as editor of the Tarheel Banker, which became the largest state banking publication in America under his stewardship.
He was Executive Vice President, Vice Chairman of the Board and assistant Chief Executive Officer of Capitol Broadcasting Company, Raleigh, North Carolina, from 1960 until his election to the Senate. From 1960 until he filed for the Senate in 1972, he wrote and presented daily editorials on WRAL-TV and the Tobacco Radio Network. His editorials were printed regularly in more than 200 newspapers throughout the United States. They were broadcast by more than 70 radio stations in North Carolina.
Helms served two two-year terms on the Raleigh City Council. During the four years, 1957 to 1961, he served as Chairman of the Council's Law and Finance Committee. He is past president of the Raleigh Rotary Club, and the Raleigh Executives Club. He is a 33rd degree Mason, Grand Lodge of Masons of North Carolina (Grand Orator, 1965, 1982, and 1991) and is a member of the Shrine.
He has served as the Director of the North Carolina Cerebral Palsy Hospital in Durham, the Director of the United Cerebral Palsy of North Carolina, and the Director of the Wake County Cerebral Palsy and Rehabilitation Center in Raleigh.
He was one of the founders and serves as a director of Camp Willow Run, a Youth Camp for Christ at Littleton, North Carolina.
He has served on the Board of Trustees of Meredith College, John F. Kennedy College, Campbell University and Wingate College. In 1941, at age 20, he became the youngest reporter, up to that time, to win the annual North Carolina Press Association award for enterprising reporting.
In 1962, he received the annual Freedoms Foundation Award for the television editorial judged best in America. He was similarly honored by the Foundation in 1973 for a newspaper article.
He is the first Republican, as well as the first North Carolinian, to receive the Golden Gavel, an award given for presiding over the Senate for more than 117 hours in 1973. He received a second Golden Gavel for presiding over the Senate more than 120 hours in 1974.
His name was placed in nomination for Vice President of the United States at the Republican convention in Kansas City, Missouri in 1976. Although he asked the convention to withdraw his name, he nevertheless received 99 delegate votes.
He holds the Gold Medal of Merit from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the North Carolina American Legionaire Award.
In 1980, he was presented the Legislator of the Year Award by Christians for a Better America and proclaimed the National Man of the Year in Politics by Christian Voice, Inc. Also, in the same year, he received the North Carolina Public Service Award.
In 1980, 1981, and 1983, he was voted the Most Admired Conservative in Congress, by the readers of Conservative Digest.
Helms was presented the American Security Council Award in 1982 and the Conservative Caucus 97th Congress Statesman Award in 1983.
He received the Golden Eagle Award in 1987 from the American Federation of Police and the "Spirit of Enterprise" Award in 1989 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
He has received the Guardian of Small Business Award from the National Federation of Independent Business and the Watchdog of the Treasury Award form the National Associated Businessmen every year since his election in 1973. In addition, he has received the Taxpayers's Best Friend Award from the National Taxpayers' Union every year since 1981.
He is married to the former Dorothy Jane Coble of Raleigh. He is the father of three children: Jane (Mrs. Charles R. Knox), Nancy (Mrs. John Stuart) of Raleigh and Charles of Winston-Salem, and has seven grandchildren.
Helms began his first term in the Senate in January 1973; was reelected to a second term on November 7, 1978; to a third term on November 6, 1984; a fourth term on November 6, 1990; and a fifth term on November 7, 1996. Helms retired on January 3, 2003. His seat was taken by Elizabeth Dole, a former Red Cross official, presidential cabinet member, and 2000 presidential candidate.
Many Christmases ago, Helms adopted a child with cerebral palsy after reading a newspaper story about unadoptable children. Several years later, he served as director of United Cerebral Palsy North Carolina.