Senator Helms and The White House

30 years and 7 presidents


Richard Nixon

1969 – 1974

Jesse Helms first met Richard Nixon in the 1950s when Helms worked as the administrative assistant for Senator Willis Smith. In November 1972, President Nixon was seeking re-election and joined Helms and gubernatorial candidate James E. Holshouser in North Carolina for a whistle-stop campaign tour. During the Watergate scandal, Helms was one of thirty four Congressmen called to the White House to meet with Nixon the evening before he resigned.


Gerald Ford

1974 – 1977

When Senator Helms was first elected Gerald Ford was the House Minority Leader. Amidst scandal, President Nixon appointed Ford as his Vice President in 1973. Less than a year later, Ford moved into the Oval Office and while they didn’t always see eye to eye, Helms thought President Ford was honest and had strong character.


Jimmy Carter

1977 – 1981

Senator Helms wrote, “President Jimmy Carter and I rarely found ourselves in agreement, much to the surprise of those who assumed two sons of the South would be mirror images.” Helms and Carter did have a lot in common, but they had very different political ideologies. One significant cause for disagreement was over United States Foreign Policy and the Panama Canal.


Ronald Reagan

1981 – 1989

Jesse Helms first met Ronald Reagan in the early 1960s while working for WRAL-TV in Raleigh. When Reagan ran for President in 1976, Helms was one of the first to publicly endorse the new candidate. Although Reagan lost the Republican nomination, he garnered enough support to eventually lead him to victory in 1980 and again in 1984. Helms wrote, “It’s no secret that Ronald Reagan was my favorite President…It was our mutual commitment to the principle that the United States must use its strength to further the causes of freedom and peace…that kept us personal friends and political allies for decades.”


George H.W. Bush

1989 – 1993

Senator Helms had a long standing relationship with George H. W. Bush prior to him becoming the 41st President of the United States. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Bush began his political career, eventually becoming the 11th Director the Central Intelligence Agency (1976-1977), the 43rd Vice President for Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) and was elected the 41st President from 1989-1993. Senator Helms considered Bush to be “one of the most principled men we’ve ever had in government."


Bill Clinton

1993 – 2001

For the majority of Bill Clinton’s time in the White House, Senator Helms was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The two men had very different political ideologies but were able to work together on number of key issues, such as the Helms-Biden Act that reformed the U.S.-U.N. relationship. Clinton and Helms were often able to put aside their differences, reach across the aisle and do what was best for the country.


George W. Bush

2001 – 2009

Senator Helms’ last day in office was in January 2003, so he was not in the Senate for most of George W. Bush’s presidency. He did, however, endorse Bush during his 2000 campaign and supported the President, and the country, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Senator Helms believed George W. Bush was a compassionate conservative who would lead the country in the right direction.

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