Mr. Helms was an influential conservative who served from 1973 to 2003. He had suffered multiple health problems, including bone disorders, prostate cancer and heart disease. Funeral arrangements are being made, according to a release from the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate, N.C.
A polarizing figure, Mr. Helms was a harsh critic of affirmative action and other progressive causes. He firmly fought to defend his views on social policies and foreign affairs, a fight that garnered high praise among conservative stalwarts.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, praised the life and work of Mr. Helms, who was a long-time chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Today we lost a senator whose stature in Congress had few equals,” Mr. McConnell said in a release. “Senator Jesse Helms was a leading voice and courageous champion for the many causes he believed in. Jesse and Dot were great friends to Elaine and me. We mourn his passing and extend our deepest sympathies to the extended Helms family.”