Former Senator Jesse Helms Dead At 86

WASHINGTON D.C. (AP) — The White House says the nation has “lost a great public servant and true patriot.”

Former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms died early Friday of natural causes at the age of 86. Funeral arrangements are pending.

The conservative first became known to North Carolina voters as a newspaper and TV commentator. He was elected to the Senate in 1972, and decided not to run for a sixth term in 2002. As he got older, he was slowed by a variety of illnesses, including prostate cancer.

In the Senate, where he chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, his opposition to Communism defined his foreign policy views. He rejected a lot of arms control treaties, and opposed Fidel Castro at every turn. He supported the contras in Nicaragua, but not the Panama Canal treaties that Jimmy Carter pushed through the Senate.

His habit of blocking nominations and legislation earned him the nickname “Senator No.”

In his later years in the Senate, he sometimes opted for compromise. And he softened his views on AIDS after years of clashes with gay activists – advocating greater federal funding to fight AIDS overseas.

But in his memoirs, he made it clear his opinions on other issues hadn’t softened. He compared abortion to the Holocaust and the 9/11 attacks.