Helms, originally a Democrat, switched his partisan affiliation to Republican during the civil rights debates of the 1960s.
White separatist, U.S. senator, GOP darling and otherwise racist stalwart Jesse Helms died Friday after a bout with both metaphorical and actual heart problems. For his supporters and detractors, Helms’ persona as a race-baiting Southern politician defined many debates around civil rights in the 1960s.
The L.A. Times:
Jesse Helms, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina who for half a century infuriated liberals with his race-baiting campaign tactics and presidents of both parties with his use of senatorial privilege, died today. He was 86.
Helms, who won election to the Senate five times before retiring in 2003, died in Raleigh, N.C., of natural causes, his former chief of staff, Jimmy Broughton, told the Associated Press.
A registered Democrat in the years before he ran for the Senate in 1972, Helms was not the only Southerner of his generation to defect to the GOP after his party championed the cause of civil rights and, as he put it, “veered so far to the left nationally.” Nor was he, at his death, the only politician defending the traditional values of a rural South that had long since been suburbanized.