Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A thoughtful note from Jesse

Over nearly three decades of covering the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., we had some testy exchanges from time to time when the senator or his staff didn't like something I was writing about him. Some years when there were no communications at all. He was a tough politician who didn't play softball when a hardball was at hand, and my stories from the Greensboro Daily News Washington Bureau and later its Raleigh Bureau got under his skin from time to time. He called them as he saw them, and so did I, and sometimes the sparks flew.
But there were also times when Jesse Helms displayed the warmth, wit and thoughtfulness that endeared him to many of his constituents.
One such incident came in a 1994 phone call a couple of days after I had written a column about my father's death a week or so earlier. I don't recall his exact words but he had seen the piece and was moved to call and talk about his own father and how he came to grips with his death some years earlier. And he told me about a couple of things he had read that helped him deal with that loss.
A few days later a letter arrived in the mail from Helms with a short personal note and an excerpt from Taylor Caldwell's book "The Strong City" and a copy of a poem by Ida Blakeman Issertel called "For You." They were comforting words.
I've read them over from time to time, and pondered how to reconcile the thoughtfulness of his note with the sometimes angry, sometimes defiant, often sharp-tongued words that Jesse Helms rode to public notice and to become one of the most important politicians in the state and nation. It is a reminder, if one is needed, of how complex a man Jesse Helms could be.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, that Jessie, he was a thoughtful guy alright.
Betts - you are "without eggs."

John said...

It's a reminder that those verbal stones we throw, are aimed at human beings. Politics can often be as brutal as wars, but without the courage and honor of soldiers.

anonymous 12:50 PM... your comment was classless. Notice I didn't say that YOU were classless... I don't know you so won't judge. But, the comment you made was classless.

Wise men may disagree, but they remain respectful. Those who fail to do so, were never wise.

Anonymous said...

Jesse Helms was a shining example of a great American hero and a great human being. In the end we see he separated the men from the boys and was a compassionate individual with a big heart and a great family man who loved his country. He was rightly against quotas believing people should earn their keep and not be given a free lunch.
The losers whine while the winners shine. Maybe we should crown last place sports teams or poor performers who fail to work hard to better themselves and be all they can be as champions to promote equality.
We saw a typical poor loser with little man Harvey Gant who was too arrogant to call Helms and congratulate him on his victory in the 90s.
Had Helms lost to Gant there is no doubt Jesse would have been to first call and congratulate him.
This is the difference between a man of genuine integrity and a self serving unqualified scoundrel that set a poor classless example for not just himself but for his constituents.

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