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It’s no surprise Jesse Helms cozied up to the FBI. He and J. Edgar Hoover were the leading enemies of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.
But the revelations spotlight part of WRAL’s history that people at the station today might rather forget.
In the 1960s, WRAL was known as the Jesse Helms station. The self-proclaimed “Voice of Free Enterprise.” The conservative counter to the liberal News & Observer. And the “white station.”
Five nights a week, Helms would spew his special brand of venom against liberals, Kennedys, King and all those he suspected were closet communists. His “Viewpoints” lasted several minutes, an eternity today.
Mysteriously, the tapes seem to have disappeared. Too bad. They’d make interesting viewing.
As a WRAL radio reporter during the infamous Frank Graham-Willis Smith Senate race in 1950, Helms took to the airwaves after Graham led the first primary. He urged Smith supporters to go to their candidate’s house in Raleigh and urge him to call a runoff. They did, and one of the most racist campaigns in Southern history ensued. Smith won.
In 1964, Helms was on TV the night Richardson Preyer led the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Over and over, he credited Preyer’s lead to the “black bloc vote.”
One Preyer man remembers supporters calling headquarters: “Do you see what they’re doing to us on WRAL?” Preyer, like Graham, lost the runoff.
That’s the way A.J. Fletcher – the man who founded the station and hired Helms – wanted it.
Here’s a clue to Fletcher’s viewpoint. Back in those days (my kids won’t believe this), TV stations signed off the air around midnight. Most ended their broadcasting day by playing the National Anthem.
Not WRAL. It signed off with “Dixie.” And not the jaunty, bouncy version. But a mournful, dirgelike rendition – over scenes of Civil War battlefields and mossy old plantations.
The message was clear: Things were a lot better back when you-know-who knew their place.
But that’s a long time ago. Jim Goodmon, A.J. Fletcher’s grandson, has transformed the station. He’s invested in technology, a top-notch website and top talent. And Goodmon has become a progressive force in the state and community.
That was definitely a channel that needed changing.


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3 comments on “The 'Helms Station'

  1. dap916 says:

    That was a very good presentation, Gary. And, it was accurate in total. Those were different days, back then. Those days had many things that were wrong from a human rights standpoint and Helms capitalized on the fact that the vast majority of whites in North Carolina viewed blacks as underachievers and a group of people that were more interested in what America could do for them rather than what they could do for America, of course. I was intimately involved in that and remember things said then that could never be said now. Some of that “change” is a good thing. Some of it is a bad thing. Talking down to any race is abhorent. Being cognizant of the fact that people in our state of one particular race were, by and large, the perpetrators of most crimes and the ones that were taking from the massive and ever-increasing entitlement programs and being involved in the graft and corruption involved in those doesn’t make someone a racist. It makes someone a realist. Helms, despite his negatives, knew this was happening and fought diligently to try to resolve this to no avail.

    Today, me saying this is going to cause people to call me a racist and an idiot and someone that doesn’t understand the plight of people of color. But, of course, that’s just rhetoric and spin and innuendo taught them by the left. I know what my white friends think and I know what my successful black friends thing about the race issue. It’s a ruse. Jesse knew that. He knew that if we could somehow entice blacks in our state to focus on being successful rather than relying on government to take care of them, our state would be FAR better off and the race issue would be non-existant.

    But, Gary, you’re still living the “anti’s” on Jesse. You’re still the prodigal liberal. I give ya kudos for sticking with it.

  2. dap916 says:

    I forgot to ask you, Gary, this interesting question:

    “In the 1960s, WRAL was known as the Jesse Helms station. The self-proclaimed “Voice of Free Enterprise.” The conservative counter to the liberal News & Observer. And the “white station.”

    Who, exactly, was it that called WRAL the “white station”?

  3. -1 says:

    Just more liberal bs and revisionism.Typical from the defeated.

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