Senator Helms first met with Bono, the lead singer for U2, in 2001. Bono came to Helms’ office in Washington, D.C. to discuss the AIDS pandemic in Africa and to ask the Senator to help fight it. Not long after that meeting, in March 2002, Helms, along with Senator Bill Frist, offered an amendment to the Senate to add $500 million to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s programs to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Their goal was to use that funding to find a way to get the proper treatment and medicine to every HIV positive pregnant woman and prevent them from passing the disease to their children.

Meeting with Bono helped change Senator Helms’ mind about how to approach government funding for HIV/AIDS. If February 2002 at a conference organized by Samaritan’s Purse, Helms publicly admitted that he was ashamed he waited so long to do something “significant” about AIDS.


Senator Helms met Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s when she was leader of the Conservative Party in England. He offered to let her use his office whenever she visited Washington, D.C. That was the beginning of a relationship that lasted until Senator Helms’ death in 2008. When Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Helms was proud to support her and was glad she was able to help President Reagan fight communism and spread democracy around the world.

In 2001, Lady Thatcher came to Wingate, NC to attend the grand opening of the Jesse Helms Center Building. She cut the ribbon and spoke at Wingate University. The Prime Minster wrote in 2001 that “A conservative foreign policy can defined in a variety of ways….it is essentially one which places the national interest first…nobody ever said that international statesmanship was easy. Nor has it been easy for Jesse Helms to speak out so clearly and consistently for American and wider Western interests. I admire him for it.”

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

Much like everyone around the country, Senator Helms was devastated by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. He visited the Pentagon on September 12 to give his support and encouragement to the volunteers working at the scene. Also on September 12, Senator Helms spoke on the Senate floor about the tragic event. He compared with Pearl Harbor and hoped the United States would be able to find those responsible for ruining so many lives that day.


The issues on which Senator Helms focused during his career were varied but were always deeply rooted in his conservative principles and to what he felt was his moral responsibility. In 2001, Helms announced he would not run for a sixth term and, in 2003, retired to Raleigh with his wife, three children, and seven grandchildren. Helms lived happily in retirement with his family until his death on July 4, 2008.

Return to tour