RALEIGH, N.C. - Vice President Dick Cheney and a delegation of US senators joined hundreds of other mourners to pay their respects yesterday at the funeral of former senator Jesse Helms, a five-term Republican who died on July Fourth.
Helms's family sat in the front pews of the packed 800-seat sanctuary at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh, where Helms worshiped for decades and served as a deacon. A bipartisan group of federal and state officials listened during a nearly 1 1/2-hour service as friends and family recalled the conservative icon, who inspired both love and disdain for his strong views.
"Jesse Helms always stood his ground," Senate Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky and the minority leader, said from the pulpit. "He put duty above all else - duty to God, to country, to family . . . the simple duty of treating other people well."
Helms, who spent three terms in the US Senate, died at age 86 after years of declining health.
Senator Elizabeth Dole, who took Helms's seat when he chose not to seek reelection in 2002, attended the service with her husband, Bob Dole, a former GOP presidential candidate and Kansas senator. Her counterpart, Senator Richard Burr, a Republican, sat nearby.
Democratic Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware also were seated in the pews, along with Governor Mike Easley and several state political figures. Cindy McCain, wife of the presumed Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, also was in attendance as others gathered to watch the funeral service remotely from a church gymnasium.