The John William Pope Foundation and The Jesse Helms Center Foundation share a common purpose: enabling North Carolinians of all backgrounds to achieve their full potential through the promotion of free enterprise.
The Helms Center, founded in 1988, serves as the official library and archive of the late U.S. Senator from North Carolina. The center is located on the campus of Helms’ alma mater Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina, near his hometown of Monroe.
The center’s archives hold more than 1 million documents related to Helms’ time as a senator, Raleigh city councilman, and media executive. It is a treasure trove for researchers studying the countless issues in American government and politics involving Helms.
But the Helms Center is much more than a museum. One of its premiere programs is the Free Enterprise Leadership Challenge. This intensive summer learning program held on college campuses introduces high school students to the principles of free market capitalism, and . Begun in 1995, FELC has over 10,000 graduates in the United States and around the world.
The Helms Center now offers an online curriculum in addition to FELC. The course, called Free Enterprise Now, was developed by the center’s free enterprise fellow and Wingate business school dean Dr. Peter Frank and allows anyone to learn business principles. Each year the Helms Center and Wingate University present the BB&T Program on the Moral Foundations of Capitalism lecture series. Its distinguished academic speakers introduce students and the public to a variety of economic topics.
The Helms Center also has a strong foreign policy focus, hosting annual lectures in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. With the support of the Pope Foundation, it has recently presented a series of foreign policy conferences in Raleigh. The event has featured leaders like Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Council advisor John Bolton, and current and former members of the North Carolina congressional delegation.
Senator Jesse Helms was a larger-than-life figure in modern North Carolina history and American politics. He grew up in modest circumstances in a small town before taking classes at Wingate College and Wake Forest College, and working as a journalist in Raleigh.
Helms became a well-known political commentator in Raleigh in the lead up to his first election to the U.S. Senate in 1972. He served five terms, ending as chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee. A staunch conservative who helped Ronald Reagan on his path to the presidency, Helms was sometimes called “Senator No” for his hesitance in expanding the role of government.