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Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism Hardcover – February 5, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"Bill Link's masterful biography of Jesse Helms lays bare the roots of his conservative politics grounded in his white supremacist childhood and documents Helms's influence in shaping the course of national politics. Exhaustively researched and crisply written, Link proves Helms's importance to the Republican Party's southern strategy at home and his exportation of conservative southern values into U.S. foreign policy.  This is fundamental reading for anyone interested in the rise of conservativism and politics in general in our time." -- Glenda Gilmore, Peter V. And C. Van Woodward Professor of History, Yale University

"Professor Link's fascinating political biography of Jesse Helms is also an authoritative study of the rise of the New Right.  Through Helms's career, we see the knitting together of the various strands of conservatism that account for Ronald Reagan's triumph in 1980, the Republican Party's Congressional revolution of 1994, and much else.  Vivid characters and important issues fill the pages of 'Righteous Warrior,' and the reader is eager to keep turning those pages."-- Sheldon Hackney, Boies Professor of US History, University of Pennsylvania

"Historian William Link captures in this incisive biography the complexity of Jesse Helms—a personally kind and charitable man who supported racial segregation; an affable and principled politician who played hard ball politics to get what he wanted; and a controversial symbol of the New Right in America, a hero to his followers and a demon to his enemies."           --Donald T. Critchlow, Author of The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History

About the Author

William A. Link is the Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History at the University of Florida. He lives in Gainesville, Florida.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312356005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312356002
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,555,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Thomas E. Boney, Jr. on November 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have read with great interest, and much disappointment, the book by professor William Link, "Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism."

While the book relates some interesting episodes from the life and professional career of Senator Jesse Helms, it ultimately fails to capture the character of the man, falling victim instead to the obvious, politically liberal bias of the author (a member of Historians for Obama). In fact, Link's admiration for one of the Senate's most liberal members (THE most liberal, according to the National Journal Survey in 2008) should serve as caution enough about the prejudiced liberal leanings that inevitably influenced his biography on one of the Senate's most conservative members.

Under the guise of serious scholarship, Link skews his presentation - in a way that actually reveals his own biased viewpoint - selectively picking and choosing what he would include and what he would ignore in order to perpetuate his preconceived slant on a man he never met.

It was my privilege to work with Senator Helms for 12 of his 30 years in the U.S. Senate, and I scarcely recognize the man Link portrays. I remember being interviewed by Link more than a year before the book was published in preparation for his biography on the senator.

At the time, he portrayed himself as a professional and disinterested historian, who wanted to write a factual and objective portrait of North Carolina's longest-serving senator whom he considered had been pivotal in the development of modern-day conservative politics.

Imagine my surprise when I read in the preface to his book that, in fact, he came to his project not with any sort of academic neutrality but rather with a fundamentally liberal prejudice.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ghtx on July 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is a great read on two dimensions. First, it's a well-written and fascinating biography of Senator Helms, one of the most important American political figures of the second half of the twentieth century. Second, it's a captivating story of the movement that he represented: the "New Right," heavily composed of Southern conservative former Democrats. It's this political movement, whose apotheosis was Reagan (or perhaps Bush 43), that shaped much of the Republican party over the past several decades, and indeed much of the nation.

That's why it is so interesting to hear about its "humble beginnings," which were in the white South's resistance to federally-mandated civil rights legislation. This, of course, was nothing new, and the South had been fighting this ever since their defeat of Reconstruction (with the help of some white-robe-clad compatriots). But in the 1950s and 1960s, the perceived federal interventions had drastically increased, and this segment of the southern population flocked to leaders who would stand up against the tide.

Helms, of course, was one such leader, and the conservatives of North Caroline elected him to the Senate for five terms. Unlike other southerners known for their anti-civil rights stances, he never relented or repented, unlike George Wallace or Strom Thurmond. To some, that makes him more honorable.

The author is by no means unbiased, but that doesn't mean the book lacks objectivity, nor does it mean we ought not to believe anything written in the book. One can personally be liberal but still write an honest biography of a conservative.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Todd Miller on September 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prof. Link's book takes a hard look at the political life and motivations of Senator Jesse Helms. The book is well-researched, and makes a compelling argument for the centrality of Sen. Helms in the American Conservative movement.

As a doctoral student in the history department that Dr. Link formerly chaired (UNC-Greensboro), I had the opportunity to gain "inside" knowledge on how Link did his work. Ignoring a good deal of criticism from colleagues (who felt the historian too generous toward his subject), Link produced a balanced view of a politician easily caricatured as a buffoon or neanderthal: in truth, Helms was neither angel nor devil. Indeed, one of the greatest strengths of this work is its balance; clearly, the reviewer who lambasted this book on this website never read, or even skimmed, the work.

Like most of Link's other works, "Righteous Warrior" is thick with detail, and is, at times, a bit dry. Furthermore, the book focuses on Helms' political, rather than his personal, life; you won't find much of the story of how Helms' upbringing and background shaped him. However, the work is certainly worth reading, especially for anyone interested in the machinations that brought Ronald Reagan and the Right into power during the 1980s.
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By Michael A. Johnson on October 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Good resource
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