Jesse Helms, the five-term iconoclast senator from North Carolina who earned the sobriquet ?Senator No? died on July 4 in his native Raleigh, N.C. He was 86 years of age and had been in ill health since his decision to decline re-election in 2002.
Helms was known for often saying ?yes? to numismatics. He had a surprisingly active career involving numismatics, especially gold and commemorative coinage. A listing of his numismatic-sponsored legislation takes up 11 pages of text and almost four thousand words of explanation.
President Bush said at his passing, ?Jesse Helms was a kind, decent, and humble man and a passionate defender of what he called ?the Miracle of America.? So it is fitting that this great patriot left us on the Fourth of July,? the same day Presidents Adams, Jefferson and Monroe passed.
Sen. Helms was born in Monroe, Union County, N.C., on Oct. 18, 1921.
His education included public schools of Monroe, Wingate Junior College and Wake Forest College. He went on like many in his generation to serve in the military: he enlisted in the Navy and served as a recruiter 1942-1945.
Later he became city editor of the Raleigh Times and by 1951 administrative assistant to U.S. Senators Willis Smith (1951-1953) and then Alton Lennon (1953). Elected a member of the Raleigh City Council (1957-1961) he became a television and radio executive for a dozen years, 1960-1972.
Helms was elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 1972. He served from Jan. 3, 1973, to Jan. 3, 2003.
In 1976, Helms introduced S. 3563, a bill to declare the public policy of the United States and to remove all legal obstacles to the use of gold clauses. It went nowhere, but in 1977, he introduced S. 79, a bill to restore the freedom to use gold clauses in contracts.
In that same Congress came S. 2843 (1978) a bill to provide for the issuance of gold medallions, and for other purposes. The American Arts Gold medallion act were a result of this pioneer effort.
Commonly thematic, that same year and Congress, Helms introduced S. 3624, a bill to amend the Federal Reserve Act to terminate the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury to require the delivery of gold to the Treasurer of the United States.
In October 1979 a concurrent resolution expressing the sense of the Congress that the $1 bill should remain in circulation and the $1 coin should be produced in such volume as demand warrants.
In May, 1979, he introduced S. 1055, a bill to provide for the issuance of gold coins; later came S. 3181, a bill to provide for the reinstatement of the dollar as a gold reserve currency, to stabilize the value of the dollar, and in the following Congress came S.6 (1981): a bill to provide for the reinstatement of the dollar as a gold reserve currency, to stabilize the value of the dollar, and for other purposes.
Also in 1981, he joined Sen Steve Symms as a co-sponsor of S. 1704 , a bill to provide for the minting of U.S. gold coins., and then joined Idaho?s Sen. Jim McClure as a co-sponsor of S. 2598, a bill to provide for the disposal of silver from the National Defense Stockpile through the issuance of silver coins.
The legislation, often not successful, shows the pattern of his interest in gold and coins.
With then young Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., he co-sponsored a bill to require the secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the United States Organization (USO). He worked with Bill Armstrong, R-Colo.,, on a bill to require the secretary of the Treasury to mint a silver dollar coin in commemoration of the 38th anniversary of the ending of the Korean War and in honor of those who served.
Olympic commemoratives as well as commemoratives for the White House, Thomas Jefferson, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Vietnam Women?s Memorial and numerous other commemorative bills also received his support.
Although Helms was often painted as a racist, his numismatic votes showed things are not always what they seem. He supported as co-sponsor the Jackie Robinson commemorative as well.