Jesse Helms’ Socialist Past

When Jesse Helms announces his retirement this Wednesday, Chatterbox hopes that in his farewell speech he remembers to thank Eleanor Roosevelt. As Ernest Furgurson relates in his 1986 book, Hard Right: The Rise of Jesse Helms, Helms was able to enroll at Wake Forest University only because, as Helms later recalled, a teacher there “negotiated an NYA job at $18.75 a month in sports publicity for me.”  The National Youth Administration (1935-1943) was an arm of the Works Progress Administration championed by Eleanor Roosevelt. It provided federal jobs to young people as a way to help finance their education during the Depression. Compared to Americorps, the Clinton-created youth service organization that Helms fought long and hard to eliminate, the NYA was a socialist juggernaut spreading taxpayer-subsidized make-work (“sports publicity”?) across the land. Without it, Helms might never have made it to the U.S. Senate.