RALEIGH, N.C., July 4 (UPI) -- Former arch-conservative U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina died Friday at age 86 after battling cancer and heart disease, hospital officials said.
Officials at the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate, N.C., said Helms died of natural causes in Raleigh at 1:15 a.m., CBS News reported.
Heralded by older conservatives as the last of the "Old South" politicians, Helms, who started out as a stalwart segregationist, later reached out to African-Americans and at times was a public voice for young conservative voters.
During his highly publicized Senate campaigns, Helms defeated such politicians as former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt and former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, the TV station noted.
Despite his dominant run in the Senate, Helms is credited by some as helping North Carolina become a competitive two-party state, WTVD-TV in Raleigh, N.C., reported.
Helms, who retired from the Senate in 2003, is survived by his wife Dot; three children and seven grandchildren.
Consistently opposing communism, feminism and affirmative action, Helms, who rose to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, became known as "Senator No," CBS noted.
"He sticks to his guns and he doesn't mind firing them, either," former Senate leader Bob Dole said of Helms.
Asked late in his career how he would like to be remembered, Helms responded: "I would like for them to say, 'Well, he did the best he could.' If they say that, that'd be enough."