Synopses & Reviews
In Righteous Warrior, William A. Link provides a magisterial portrait of Senator Jesse Helms, one of the most commanding American politicians of the late twentieth century, and of the conservative movement he forged. Born in Monroe, North Carolina, in his early years Helms worked as a newspaperman, a radio commentator and a magazine editor. Early on, he realized the power of television, and, on tiny black and white screens across North Carolina in the 1960s, he battled the civil rights movement, campus radicalism, and the sexual revolution. Race was a central issue for Helms, and he used it at every turn to solidify his base and, in some cases, to mobilize political support. But also important was sexuality, and his discomfort with what he believed was a rising tide of immorality. In 1973, he was elected to the Senate, where he remained until 2003. As Senator, Helms became a national conservative leader and spokesman for the revitalized American Right, playing a prominent role in the Reagan Revolution of the 1970s and 1980s and the rising tide of Republicanism of the 1990s. His political organization, the Congressional Club, became remarkably successful at raising millions of dollars and in operating a highly sophisticated, media-driven political machine. The Congressional Club also provided a source of national standing and power for Helms. In working so relentlessly for his cause, Helms literally became a nexus of the burgeoning movement, pushing conservative causes, linking conservative politicians up with wealthy donors and amassing more power than many Senators within memory. In Righteous Warrior, William Link tells the story of one of the most powerful Americans of the twentieth century and the conservative mark he left on the American political landscape.
"Bill Link's masterful biography of Jesse Helms lays bare the roots of his conservative politics grounded in his white supremacist childhood and documents Helms's influence in shaping the course of national politics. Exhaustively researched and crisply written, Link proves Helms's importance to the Republican Party's southern strategy at home and his exportation of conservative southern values into U.S. foreign policy. This is fundamental reading for anyone interested in the rise of conservativism and politics in general in our time." -- Glenda Gilmore, Peter V. And C. Van Woodward Professor of History, Yale University
"Professor Link's fascinating political biography of Jesse Helms is also an authoritative study of the rise of the New Right. Through Helms's career, we see the knitting together of the various strands of conservatism that account for Ronald Reagan's triumph in 1980, the Republican Party's Congressional revolution of 1994, and much else. Vivid characters and important issues fill the pages of 'Righteous Warrior,' and the reader is eager to keep turning those pages."-- Sheldon Hackney, Boies Professor of US History, University of Pennsylvania
"Historian William Link captures in this incisive biography the complexity of Jesse Helms—a personally kind and charitable man who supported racial segregation; an affable and principled politician who played hard ball politics to get what he wanted; and a controversial symbol of the New Right in America, a hero to his followers and a demon to his enemies." --Donald T. Critchlow, Author of The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History
About the Author
William A. Link is the Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History at the University of Florida. He lives in Gainesville, Florida.