Friday, July 4, 2008

Senator Jesse Helms and His Wife Knew ASL

 One of most colorful and conservative politician on the national level, recently passed away and had a connection to the deaf community thru his wife. Honorable Jesse Helms of North Carolina, elected to the U.S Senate in late 1970s. Helms was a polarizing lawmaker, but truly effective with his anti-communist and moralistic messages -

Senator Jesse Helms' hearing wife knew American Sign Language (ASL) and often volunteered at Gallaudet's Visitor Center as what Gallaudet Professor Robert Weinstock noted on his writings for Gally's WHATSUP4 VAX-forum moderated by students during the 1990s.  

Senator Jesse Helms once signed "I Love You" in ASL to two little girls and their parents at the Anchorage airport after getting back from the "KAL 007" Senate investigation in the early 1980s. The "KAL 007" was a major international outcry against the Soviet Union for shooting down the civilian passenger plane. 

Many Gallaudetians and other individuals described Jesse Helms' wife as a sweet one as opposed to Senator Jesse Helms' combative treatments toward disability laws. Helms pushed for the nomination of Terrence Boyle to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) expressed such a concern about the nomination of Terrence Boyle due to his judicial career of weakening the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)  and Section 504. Boyle frequently ruled against the ADA and ruled to limit the US. Congress' power of enforcing the ADA. Boyle ever ruled that the U.S. Congress had no powers to apply the ADA to state prisons either under the Commerce clauses (U.S. Constitution) and the 14th Amendment. Boyle ever ruled against the right to reasonable accommodations. or look up to NAD Archives - 2001

How hilarious about the ACT-UP, a radical and militant gay activists surprised Honorable Jesse Helms by putting the 40-feet giant and inflatable condom over Helms' residence in Arlington, VA (2000) to send the strong message about not ignoring the AIDS victims. Helms was well-known for dismissing the AIDS epidemic and blasted the homosexual agenda from time to time. In the end, Helms finally realized about the seriousness of AIDS epidemic near his final Senate years. He was very regretful for not doing something about the AIDS/HIV epidemic.  The ACT-UP activists barged into drug companies' office about their questionable rigging practices to make the HIV medications' price too high to be affordable for HIV victims. Bravo to the ACT-UP's gutsy tactics and provoking "street theatres" to force politicians to take a hard look at the sufferings of people with AIDS and HIV! 

Jesse Helms' former press secretary, Claude Allen, was recently arrested at Target's store for shoplifting.  He brought Target shopping bags and grabbed items and asked for full refunds. Nothing new about the so-called family values among the GOPers! 

Honorable Jesse Helms often quipped "I really do not care if I am wrong about things!" Questions remained about how much "deaf-friendly" Honorable Jesse Helms really was toward deaf people. What was his legacy to the deaf community especially North Carolina? Helms never was afraid if he appeared as a bigot or ignorant. Good riddance!

ASLize yours, 
Robert L. Mason (RLM)



  1. Hummmm, perhaps he was colorful... in the same way that the putrid green they put in waiting rooms is conforting... in the same way the color of grey mold contrasts with the formerly succulent golden of a good cheddar gone bad... Ykes! He was a train wreck with ADA... one "I love you" does not a deaf-friendly guy make.

    I agree! Good riddance

  2. Isabelle,

    How true!

    Senator Jesse Helms' wife took some sign language classes at Gallaudet.