The Viewpoints of Jesse Helms

Viewpoint letterhead

The recent death of Jesse Helms, formerly United States Senator from North Carolina, started me thinking about our collection of transcripts of Helms’s Viewpoint television editorials. Between 1960 and 1972 Helms was the on-air editorialist for the evening news on Raleigh’s WRAL-TV. Our former curator, Bill Powell, talked the television station into letting us have transcripts of the talks, more than 2500 editorials in all. Direct copies of the videos had long since disappeared. Almost from the day we made them available the editorials have been among our most frequently used items, reflecting in part Jesse Helms’s rise to a position of power and leadership in the Senate and in the conservative political movement in the United States. Opinion on the content of the editorials varies widely, if not wildly, but they are never dull. Helms, who had been a reporter or editor most of his life, was a gifted writer and polemicist. Another attraction of the WRAL editorials is that, as a recent biographer has noted, Helms was remarkably consistent in his political views over his long political career, and the opinions of Helms the editorialist link closely to the opinions of Helms the political leader.