Local News

Newspaper publisher recalls Helms as 'great man,' friend

Posted July 7, 2008 6:35 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2008 7:17 p.m. EDT

— The founder of a nearly 60-year-old Dunn newspaper has picked up his pen to set the record straight about former Sen. Jesse Helms, whom he claims as a longtime friend.

"I think Jesse Helms is the greatest man in the modern history of North Carolina, if not ever," Hoover Adams, the publisher of the Daily Record in Dunn, said.

Adams said he knew Helms as a journalist, long before the conservative icon became a politician. They met when Adams recruited Helms as high-school graduation speaker in 1968.

The editorials Helms delivered on WRAL News, in newspapers and on radio resonated with him, Adams said.

"He voiced the feeling of the people. He knew what the average Joe wanted or didn't want," Adams said. "He always went to bat for the common man."

Adams joined Helms on the campaign trail. Together, they met former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and traveled to South Africa.

"The way he handled those little children over there (South Africa), he'd have one in each arm," Adams recalled.

Adams recalled that their friendship rendered great fodder for his newspaper: Helms, a former journalist, was never at a loss for words, and those words were never diluted by political correctness. What Helms believed, he could write "just as good as he spoke," Adams said.

"I'd always call and get a good quote from him," Adams said. "He didn't pull any punches."

Helms' love of words helped him serve his constituents: "Every letter he got, there had to be a reply in the mail at 4 in the afternoon," Adams recalled.

Adams dismissed critics who claim that Helms was racist and controversial. "In the first place, they don't know him," he said.

Adams said he did not allow any negative, false impressions of Helms enter his newspaper.

"He usually called to thank me," Adams said. "We never said anything bad about him."

He added, "Of course, I didn't know anything bad to put in there."

Adams recalled his last meeting with Helms two weeks ago: The 86-year-old former senator was in good spirits and talked, of course, about politics.