Reaction to the death of former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, who died on the Fourth of July at age 86:

"Jesse Helms was a kind, decent, and humble man and a passionate defender of what he called "the Miracle of America." So it is fitting that this great patriot left us on the Fourth of July. He was once asked if he had any ambitions beyond the United States Senate. He replied: 'The only thing I am running for is the Kingdom of Heaven.' Today, Jesse Helms has finished the race, and we pray he finds comfort in the arms of the loving God he strove to serve throughout his life." — President Bush.

"Jesse Helms, my friend and long-time senator from my home state of North Carolina, was a man of consistent conviction to conservative ideals and courage to faithfully serve God and country based on principle, not popularity or politics. In the tradition of Presidents Jefferson, Adams and Monroe — who also passed on July 4th — it is fitting that such a patriot who fought for free markets and free people would die on Independence Day. As we celebrate the birth of our nation, I thank God for the blessings we enjoy, which Senator Helms worked so hard to preserve." — The Rev. Billy Graham.

"He stood by the things that he believed in, and the incredible thing (that) was so wonderful about him is that he never, whether you agreed with him or not on issues, it never affected his personal relationship with you. He believed he had a right to stand for what he believed in, and he believed you did, too." — Former North Carolina GOP Rep. Bill Cobey, chairman of The Jesse Helms Center.

"Whether you liked his politics or not, Jesse Helms was a national force able to deliver for his constituents. We last appeared together when the Navy named a submarine after North Carolina at his request. He certainly didn't shy away from controversy and you always knew what his positions were. Whether we were working together to stop international drug trafficking or opposing each other on the campaign trail, he was always a gentleman to me." — North Carolina Democratic Gov. Mike Easley.

"At the height of his power, he fought for the values of the old confederacy. He resisted the new South. He resisted the opportunity to fight for a more perfect union." — The Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"Bob and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our longtime friend Senator Jesse Helms. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to his precious wife Dot and their family. In succeeding Jesse to represent North Carolina in the United States Senate, I knew I could never replace him, but I continue to strive each day to provide the dedicated constituent service he provided the people of our state for 30 years. As my father would say, Jesse was indeed a watchdog — for North Carolina and for the nation." — North Carolina GOP Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

"Jesse Helms' legacy is one of hatred, homophobia and racism. Although not its intent, that legacy has made our community stronger and more able to forcefully respond to bigotry and prejudice. As a community, we are more committed than ever to securing full equality for all GLBT people." — Joe Solmonese, president of the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign.

"Today we lost a Senator whose stature in Congress had few equals. Senator Jesse Helms was a leading voice and courageous champion for the many causes he believed in." — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky.

"No great man, no matter his era, is short of controversy. I know Jesse would have expected as much. Those who knew him personally knew him to be a man with a kind, gentle soul who exuded warmth and lifted up those around him. The truly great legacy of Senator Helms is that he left behind so many great leaders who have been inspired by him to pursue the conservative vision for North Carolina." — North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Linda Daves.

"Senator Helms dedicated his life to serving the people of North Carolina. Whether people agreed or disagreed with him, Senator Helms would always let his constituents know where he stood on the important issues of the day. My condolences go out to his family, his wife, his children and his grandchildren." — North Carolina Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge.

"Jesse was a mentor and good friend and his contributions to North Carolina and to the nation were countless. We will miss him tremendously. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dot and the entire Helms family." — North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard Burr.

"As a friend, I will miss Jesse's warm smile and genuine hugs and friendly demeanor. It is an ending tribute that Senator Helms passed on Independence Day, as he was a strong defender of our country's security and family values. His passing is a great loss for our state and country." — Charlotte Mayor and GOP governors' nominee Pat McCrory.

"Senator Helms was the truest of patriots. His passion for conservative principles and the vigor with which he pursued them was second to none. I consider Senator Helms to be a mentor and dear friend. He dedicated his life to ensuring that the America he knew and loved would remain a strong beacon of freedom in a tumultuous world. Senator Helms leaves behind a strong legacy of fighting for the freedoms that make America great, even in the face of the strongest of foes." — North Carolina GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx.

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of Senator Helms. He loved his country and he loved his home state of North Carolina. He set the standard for constituent service — with no problem being too small or too big for him to tackle. Senator Helms will be remembered for his work to spread freedom around the world and his unmovable core convictions that guided him through his career. I am proud to have called Jesse Helms a friend and a mentor." — North Carolina Rep. Robin Hayes.

"Known for his conservative views and fiery style, Senator Helms was an icon in the Senate. I had the pleasure of serving with him for a number of years and appreciated his passion as a lawmaker. Kathy and I send our deepest sympathies to Dorothy and the rest of their family and wish them comfort during this difficult time." — New Hampshire GOP Sen. Judd Gregg.