U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers wants to name the historic Century Post Office in downtown Raleigh the Jesse Helms Federal Building and United States Courthouse, honoring the late conservative Republican senator.
It would be the first federal building anywhere named for Helms, the state’s powerful and longtime senator, said John Dodd, president of the Helms Center in Wingate.
“This bill will ensure that the work he accomplished for the people of North Carolina will live on and invite future generations to learn about the important work he accomplished for our state and I am proud to sponsor it here in the House of Representatives,” Ellmers said in a statement.
Ellmers, a Republican representing the 2nd District which includes part of Wake County, introduced the bill Tuesday night.
Last year, postal officials had proposed closing the Century Post Office but changed their position after lobbying from former Mayor Charles Meeker and others.
Helms served as a Republican in the U.S. Senate for 30 years, from 1973 to 2003. He helped lead the conservative movement that elected Ronald Reagan president. In the Senate, he was known for his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as his speeches on the Senate floor against communism and government spending. He supported a strong military and strongly opposed expansion of the federal government.
In a statement, Helms’ widow, Dorothy, said the family “was deeply touched” to learn about the resolution to honor him with the new name for the post office.
“Jesse’s office was located in that very building for most of his Senate career. He was very proud to have his Senate office in that building on Fayetteville Street — Raleigh’s ’Main Street.’ Jesse was a letter writer throughout his entire life so it’s especially meaningful that the building to be named in his honor contains a post office,” she said.
Also named for Helms is the Helms School of Government at Liberty University in Virginia, the Christian university founded by the late founder of the Moral Majority lobbying group, Jerry Falwell.
Earlier this year a move to the name Wake County criminal justice center after Helms was met with resistance.
There’s nothing else in North Carolina named after Helms, except a short stretch of a highway between Monroe and Wingate and a county park and nursing home in Union County, Dodd said.
“I think it’s an important honor,” Dodd said. “He was the longest serving senator in North Carolina history and he was one of the most powerful,” something even people who disagree with Helms’ positions agree about, Dodd said.