Local News

Dorothy Helms, widow of former Sen. Jesse Helms, dies at 96

Posted November 7, 2015

— Dorothy “Dot” Coble Helms, the widow of former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, died Friday in Raleigh. She was 96.

Helms, a Raleigh native, graduated from the University of North Carolina, where she earned a degree in journalism. She one of the first two women to earn a journalism degree from UNC.

"Mrs. Helms was one of North Carolina’s most beloved citizens – as a loyal wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother,” Gov. Pat McCrory said. “She was also a pioneer among women in journalism and a leading community volunteer in Raleigh and Washington. It was a personal privilege to present her with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2013. Our prayers will remain with her family."

After graduation, Helms held positions at the News and Observer and three publications in Ahoskie: the Hertford County Herald, the Gates County Index and the Bertie-Ledger Advance. She also worked part time at the Star News in Wilmington.

She met her husband at the News and Observer, who worked as a sports reporter. The Helms’ married on Oct. 31, 1942 at the First Baptist Church in Raleigh.

Helms served on the Board of Directors of the Jesse Helms Center Foundation in Wingate, and was instrumental in forming the Wake County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“Dot” Helms was also involved with the Helms School of Government at Liberty University, the Women’s Missionary Union of Hayes Barton Baptist Church, Daughters of the American Revolution, and she served as a volunteer at Gallaudet College for the Deaf.

"Renee and I were saddened last night to learn of the passing of Mrs. Dorothy Helms. Mrs. Helms was a remarkable woman who stood by me as Chairman of my first campaign for Congress," Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC) said. "One of the first women to graduate from UNC School of Journalism, she dedicated her life to her family, countless charitable works and was a major force in her husband's political career.

"The quintessential 'steel magnolia, I will miss Mrs. Helms' grace, charm, and strong opinions. Renee and I extend our condolences to the entire Helms family and hope they take great solace in knowing she is reunited with her beloved husband in the presence of our Creator."

Helms is survived by her children, Jane Knox, Nancy Helms and Charles Helms; seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

A service celebrating Helms’ life will be held Tuesday at Hayes Barton Baptist Church on Glenwood Avenue at 2 p.m.


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  • Mike Hill Nov 8, 2015
    user avatar

    John we do not need your bigoted comments at a time like this. You may want to know that decent people now refer to the "R" word to being just as offensive as the "N" word. The use of the "R" word is nothing more than to acknowledge a liberal, progressive or democrat has lost the argument.

    Jesse Helms was a statesman when this country was being over run by politicians. His wife was a very kind and dear person.

    Your out of context comments are akin to the political rally held at Paul Wellstone's memorial instead of a funereal. Quite despicable.

  • Tom Laurence Nov 7, 2015
    user avatar

    Sincerest prayers go out to the Helms family.

  • Sonja Yagel Nov 7, 2015
    user avatar

    They were two wonderful people who never arose being regular citizens. Helms was a very honest, down to earth person, and I miss him to this day. What we need is a few Jesse Helms in Congress and the country's business would start moving again. I loved both of these dear people

  • Dave Burton Nov 7, 2015
    user avatar

    Dot and Jesse were sweet Christians first, and Great Americans second. North Carolina was truly blessed to have them.

    But Sen. Helms' name was Jesse, not James. Since he used to work at WRAL, I'm surprised the folks there are confused about that.