Jesse Helms Center
|Jesse Helms Center|
The Helms Center
|Established||1994; current building 2001|
|Location||Wingate, North Carolina|
The Jesse Helms Center, located in Wingate, North Carolina and named for its founder, U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, is a repository of Helms' papers, letters, speeches, transcripts of his televised editorials for WRAL-TV, books of faith, and a replica of his Senate desk and office. There are also campaign materials, such as polling information, walled editorial cartoons, and advertisements.
The center has a collection of elephants, the symbol of Helms' Republican Party, but Helms also had an interest in the animals since childhood. There is a "Free Enterprise Hall of Fame" within the center. Helms honors several individuals who were key influences in his life, including his father, Jesse Alexander Helms, Sr., the police and fire chief in nearby Monroe, North Carolina; the late U.S Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia, and former U.S President Ronald W. Reagan. Between the first and second floors of the center is a timeline of various events in Helms' life. He posts headlines of his successful senatorial elections in 1972, 1978, 1984, 1990, and 1996. Helms is shown in photos with, all the presidents with whom he served from Richard M. Nixon to George W. Bush. There is a wall of world leaders. A hammock, a gift from Honduras, has Helms' name woven into the fabric. A large United Nations exhibit includes this quotation from Vice President Joe Biden: "Just as only Nixon could go to China, only Helms could fix the U.N.", a reference to Helms' reform initiatives regarding the world body.
Since 1995, the President of the Jesse Helms Center has been John Dodd. The organization is governed by a board of directors.
The Helms Center was established in 1994, after Helms rejected requests that his papers be left to an Ivy League university. He instead deposited the material with his home-county Wingate University, a private institution which he had once attended. In 2001, the center opened as a 3.3 million, two-story brick and glass structure situated next to the Wingate Town Hall.
"It's a first-rate collection," said William A. Link, chairman of the history department at the University of Florida in Gainesville: "Sometimes you get collections that have been sanitized. That's not the case with this collection. It's quite full and rich."
The Helms Center hosts a center-sponsored lecture series with such notable participants as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the Dalai Lama of Tibet.
The center sponsors the annual Helms Foreign Relations School, which consists of two days of classes held near Washington, D.C. Helms and Nathaniel Macon, who is honored with an exhibit at the Helms Center, are the only North Carolina senators ever to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.