POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Jesse Helms 1921-2008

by David Trumbull

July 11, 2008

At age 86 years and after three decades in the United States Senate, Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, joined John Adams (second President), Thomas Jefferson (third President), and James Monroe (fifth President) as an American leader who died on the Fourth of July. (Trivia: Can you name the only President born on the Fourth of July? See answer below.)

Jesse Helms was a five-term (1973-2002) United States Senator from North Carolina, and a member of the Republican Party. He served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Much will be written about this champion of conservative principles. Many will observe that he was a master of the senate rules and procedures and carried in his head an amazingly detailed history of that institution. I shall use this small space to comment on his support for American manufacturing and in particular his efforts to save U.S. textile jobs.

Mr. Helms was one of strongest supporters of the domestic U.S. textile industry in the U.S. Senate for three decades. He left a legacy of textile policies that survive him. His successful 2001 battle to prohibit third-country dying, printing and finishing in the Caribbean Basin and Sub-Saharan Africa trade preference programs established the precedent for similar language in the subsequent U.S. trade preference programs and free trade agreements. His support of the domestic wool textile industry in the 1990s on the question of tariffs on imported suiting fabrics was a highly important factor in bringing all parties to the table to negotiate the current wool program which represents a carefully crafted compromise supported by the three segments of the wool production chain.

Senator Helms was also a backer of the U.S. textile industry position on the three major textile bills that passed congress only to be vetoed by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and President George Bush in the 1990s.

It was fitting that during the 52nd Annual meeting of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute in March 2001, Senator Helms was presented with the prestigious Samuel Slater Award, named for the Founder of the American Industrial Revolution.

[Answer to trivia: Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth President was born on the Fourth of July of 1872.]

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]