Upstairs Rotunda

key influences

Key Influences

Many people influence us throughout our lives, leaving a mark that, in some way great or small, shapes our character and forms the principles that define us. Senator Helms has chosen eight people who have had this kind of lasting impact on his life. From a boyhood friend to a US President, each person taught him a lesson-the combined lessons of which add up to the unshakable moral code by which the Senator lives. The wire sculptures and the bronze sculpture of Mrs. Helms displayed here are a tribute to Senator Helms’ key influences.

J.A. Helms, Sr.

“The Lord doesn’t require us to win. He just expects us to try”

Senator Jesse Helms often refers to his father as the “REAL Jesse Helms”. A man with a great sense of civic duty. Mr. Helms served the financially strapped city of Monroe, NC as both fire chief and chief of police during the depression years. His years of community leadership provided a model for many, especially his family. When Senator Helms unexpectedly won his first race for the US Senate, he called his father and asked, “What do I do now?” His father told him to go to Washington and do what he promised the voters he would do if they elected him.

Jacob L. Coble

“Every nickel saved pays interest on a dollar for a year.”

The father of Dorothy Coble (Mrs. Jesse) Helms, J.L. Coble from Stanly County, N.C, had little formal education, but he was an avid reader with a very special interest in government and politics. Mr. Coble challenged a young Jesse Helms to think through his political opinions and form and unshakable philosophy on his own. He also aided the Senator’s understanding of how the dynamics of the free enterprise system are interwoven into a strong and stable democracy.

Sen. Richard Russell

“Jesse, I hope you’ll be a Senator some day.”

For more than fifty years, Richard B. Russell, Jr. set the standard for principled public service. In his home state of Georgia he was elected Speaker of the House, Governor, then seven-term US Senator. For 38 years, until his death in 1971, Russell was one of the most influential members of the senate. An unshakable southern Democrat, in 1952 he selected Jesse Helms to handle his radio and television advertising. When Senator Helms entered the Senate in 1973, he championed many of the conservative ideals and principles that Russell had defended. Senator Helms continues to fight for conservative values in a way that would have made the distinguished senator from Georgia Proun,

Sen. Willis Smith

“Always do and say what you believe.”

The first North Carolinian elected president of the American Bar Association and former speaker of the NC House of Representatives. Willis Smith served his state as US Senators from 1951 until his death in 1953. Senator Smith brought with him to the Senate both his love for his home state and his understanding of the United States’ critical role in international affairs. His example made a great impression on his young administrative assistant, Jesse Helms.

Pres. ronald Reagan

“Aim for that shining city on a hill.”

Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms became friends before either entered the national political arena. In 1966 Reagan was elected Governor of California. Six years later he helped the “Helms for Senate Campaign” with a television advertisement. In 1976, Helms returned the favor and Reagan carried North Carolina in the Republic presidential primary. This success set the stage for his successful run for the presidency in 1980. As president, Ronald Reagan worked closely with Senator Helms to return the country to policies based on sound conservative principles. His firm stand against Communist governments in Moscow and Berlin led to a victory in the Cold War. At home the President’s example of hard work, confidence and hope inspired the country and set a new course for the future.

R.W. House

“Learn how to learn- then becoming educated is easy.”

One of the most important influences in a young person’s life is a good teacher. Ray House was such a man. In the toughest years of the depression, Ray House committed himself to influencing young lives in Monroe, North Carolina. He was the principal of the high school, the French teacher, the band director, even the guidance counselor. He taught his students many lessons, including the importance of self-discipline and the need to set high goals for achievement. Many learned these lessons well. One student, a member of the band, went on to become a US Senator. But Jesse Helms never forgot the teacher who helped him build a sound foundation for success.

ADM. James w. Nance

“This country gave both of us the duty to defend its principles.”

From their boyhood when they would climb into the clock tower of the old Union County Courthouse to their last days together, “Bud” Nance and Jesse Helms were best friends. Nance graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1944, was a naval aviator in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and held several commands before retiring from the Navy in 1979. In 1944 at Helms’ request, Nance joined the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Admiral refused to take a salary for his service, but received the minimum $153 per year mandated by law. Senator Helms often joked that Nance’s weekly salary as Committee Chief of Staff was $2.94 and “Bud was worth every penny.”

Go to Conservative Movement