Jesse Helms, a polarizing figure who represented North Carolina in the US Senate for 30 years before retiring in 2003, died today in Raleigh, the News & Observer reports. He was 86. A pro-segregation TV commentator before entering national politics, the first Republican senator from North Carolina since Reconstruction opposed virtually every piece of civil rights legislation that crossed his desk.
"I believed right would prevail as people followed their own consciences," he later wrote. One of several lawmakers known as "Senator No," Helms was known for his refusal to work out differences with his colleagues. "Compromise, hell!" he wrote. "That’s what has happened to us all down the line—and that’s the very cause of our woes."