Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina Senator whose courtly manner and mossy drawl barely masked a hard-edged conservatism that opposed civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art, died early Friday. He was 86.
Mr. Helms’s former chief of staff, James W.C. Broughton, said that the senator died at the Mayview Convalescent Center in Raleigh, where he had lived for the last several years. Mr. Helms had been in “a period of declining health” recently, Mr. Broughton said.
In a 52-year political career that ended with his retirement from the Senate in 2002, Mr. Helms became a beacon for the right wing of American politics, a lightning rod for the left, and, often, a mighty pain for Presidents whatever their political leaning.