By Jon Ponder on 7/4/2008, 6:02am PT  

Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.


Former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, a North Carolina Republican who became an icon to conservatives, died Friday at the age of 86, a senior congressional source said.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, announced on its website that he died at 1:18 a.m. Friday after having been ill in recent years.

Helms retired in 2002 at the end of his fifth term in the Senate.

When the Republicans were the majority party in the Senate, Helms was chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, where he consistently moved U.S. policy toward the right, especially regarding the United Nations and Cuba.

He also held seats on the Agriculture Committee, where he looked out for North Carolina's extensive tobacco industry, and on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee...

Helms had an operation in 2002, at age 80, to replace a faulty prosthetic heart valve put in place in 1992, when he also had quadruple-bypass surgery.