Thanks very much for your note. I love the state, although I am no native; I taught at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa (near Black Mountain) in an in-between year in my grad school career and there met my wife-to-be and established a life-long tie to the NC mountains, eventually buying my father-in-law's property in Yancey County, where I expect to retire in a very few years. The one gnawing wound in my feelings about the state has been precisely the same disgust with Jesse Helms that you raise here. I had an exchange last week with Jonathan Robie about precisely this, and he told me that knowing that Helms was the senior Senator from the state was the only thing he regretted about settling in NC after living for several years in Germany.
Personally, I think that the state was blessed NOT to have that heritage among the Confederate states of which VA and SC were so proud; it made it possible for NC to move more quickly into the modern industrial age while retaining a remarkable cultural balance between urban and rural areas and, particularly in the mountain area I like to call my own, a marvelous climate for arts and crafts that has made it a mecca for artists and craftsmen from every part of the world to settle: I don't cease to be amazed at the sophistication and creativity I find just within the narrow range of Yancey County, and I'm sure Yancey County is not the richest in that regard (or in many others either!).
Finally, one more thought about Jesse Helms: even if he tarnishes the public image of North Carolina by his conspicuous presence in Washington, there is a glorious heritage and memory left by Morganton's Sam Ervin. And I have to say that I am not particularly pleased with Missouri's current pair of Senators, Bond and Ashcroft, but I am proud that Harry Truman is part of our heritage here (I should add that I'm not a native Missourian either, just one who settled here in 1961 to teach at Washington University).
Thanks again for your note. Regards, cwc