Former Senator Jesse Helms is dead.
Former Sen. Jesse Helms, who built a career along the fault lines of racial politics and battled liberals, Communists and the occasional fellow Republican during 30 conservative years in Congress, died on the Fourth of July.
He was 86.
In 1993, when then-President Clinton sought confirmation for an openly homosexual assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Helms registered his disgust. "I'm not going to put a lesbian in a position like that," he said in a newspaper interview at the time. "If you want to call me a bigot, fine."
He defeated former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt in 1990 and 1996 in racially tinged campaigns. In the first race, a Helms commercial showed a white fist crumbling up a job application, these words underneath: "You needed that job ... but they had to give it to a minority."
"The tension that he creates, the fear he creates in people, is how he's won campaigns," Gantt said several years later.