All eyes were on WRAL-TV on Wednesday, August 22, as U.S. Senator Jesse Helms (NC) made his announcement not to seek reelection in 2002. Satellite trucks lined Western Boulevard as national and statewide media watched Senator Helms enter the station to tape his statement. A former WRAL personality, Helms came home to tell his constituents he is currently in his last term.
Helms’ statement kicked off WRAL’s 6:00pm newscast. The special one-hour edition also featured interviews with NC Governors Jim Hunt and Mike Easley, reports on possible candidates for Helms’ seat in 2002, and stories about Helms’ career.
Helms said he will devote his time to his family at the end of his current term; he will be 81 when he gives up his seat in Congress. He thanked North Carolina for “letting me have my say.” Overall, Helms expressed his gratitude, to his staff, to those who voted for him, and to the young people with whom he met and worked.
WRAL-TV Anchor David Crabtree interviewed Helms for a special “Helms: The Decision” that WRAL ran at 8:00pm. The interview also aired on CSPAN later in the evening and the following morning. Crabtree described the aura around the event, “Senator Helms was very cordial… in wonderful spirits… not somber but a little emotional. There were lots of tears from his friends and staff members who were in the studio with him.”
Helms has served North Carolina as a U.S. Senator for five terms, 30 years when he ends his last stint in 2002.
Helms’ announcement led off WRAL’s 6:00pm newscast.