- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

The Senate paid tribute yesterday to retiring Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, an icon of conservatism and uncompromising foe of communism who, colleagues said, abided by a Southern courtliness of a bygone era.
Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the 84-year-old Senate president pro tempore, called Mr. Helms "a true gentleman of the Old South" who stuck to his beliefs and demonstrated the power a single senator can wield.
"He was not a man to be intimidated," Mr. Byrd said as Mr. Helms' wife, Dorothy, and other friends and family looked on from the gallery. "He took a stand. He was willing to take a stand alone, without a tremor."
Mr. Helms, 80, who is serving the last of his five terms, was the second retiring senator from the Carolinas in as many weeks to be recognized for his long service. Senators last week turned their attention to 99-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican, who was first elected in 1954.
Mr. Helms is a hero to many conservatives for his ardent opposition to communism, an agenda he advanced from senior positions on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He battled with the United Nations over U.S. dues and was in the vanguard of conservative social issues such as school busing, pornography in art, flag burning and homosexuality in the Boy Scouts.
"His willingness to stand up and say what he felt was right is the essence of what it takes," said Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican.
Added Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican: "There is no question that you have made an enormous difference."
On Capitol Hill, Mr. Helms won the nickname "Sen. No" for his relish in blocking nominations and legislation from reaching the Senate floor. True to form, Mr. Helms objected yesterday to a Foreign Relations Committee meeting on Iraq that had been scheduled at the same time as his Senate tribute.
Mr. Helms' Democratic colleague from North Carolina, Sen. John Edwards, called Mr. Helms a "relentless advocate" for the state's people and interests, including tobacco growers whose products he once gave away at his Senate offices.
Senators of both parties, including liberal Democrats who disagree with Mr. Helms on almost every issue, said that Mr. Helms maintained a gentle demeanor even toward opponents and was particularly kind to the elevator operators, pages and other workers who keep the Capitol operating.
"One of the ways you judge a person is just to watch they way they treat people," said Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat. "I don't think there's anybody in the Senate who treats them with more grace."
Mr. Helms sat at his desk during the 1-hour tribute, waving a salute and mouthing the words "thank you" when a speaker finished. He has been slowed by health problems in recent years, including heart surgery earlier this year that forced him to miss much of the Senate's business.
But his sense of humor was clearly intact. Referring to his frequent jousts with newspaper editorial writers and pundits, Mr. Helms said of the speeches: "I've been sitting here wondering who on Earth this Helms guy is."
Then he quickly added: "I am grateful."

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