Marvell-ing at Jesse:I’m not surprised. I read Ernest B. Ferguson’s “Hard Right” in my junior year in high school, all the better to play a senator-type character in a civics class exercise. I had more fun than the law allows.

A piece of this state’s history is lost. “Disappeared,” maybe on purpose. Or maybe no one knew how valuable it one day would be. I’m talking about the footage of pre-Senate Jesse Helms delivering political commentary for WRAL-TV.

He was on five nights a week for a dozen years starting in 1960. And yet does a single recording exist? “No one really knows,” said the young librarian for the Jesse Helms Center out in Helms’ home county of Union. The Helms center — part think tank, part Jesse shrine — certainly hasn’t found them.

Neither has David Crabtree, political reporter and anchor at WRAL today.

“We have scoured this building and the transmitter site, everywhere we thought they would be,” Crabtree said. “I don’t think a single tape exists.”

Oh sure, there are transcripts. The North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has most of them.

You can read Helms’ commentary on the way a graduate student forced his class to read the poem “To His Coy Mistress.” (As a result, the guy got fired and dropped out of grad school.) You can read Helms’ commentary on busing, unions, liberals.

But see and hear it? Nope.

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