by Lowman S. Henry | October 26, 2001

Two have been candidates for President of the United States and the other helped make Ronald Reagan President.  Together they have defined a conservative agenda for America and made an indelible imprint on the world’s most exclusive deliberative body.
Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Phil Gramm will all be leaving the U.S. Senate at the end of next year.  At 98, Thurmond’s departure was expected as was that of the 79-year-old Helms. Senator Gramm’s decision to retire, at the relatively young age of 59, was a bit of a surprise.
When you look back at the careers of these three lions of the right it is clear the conservative movement is losing its legislative heart and soul. In failing health Senator Thurmond has been but a shadow of his former self for years Senator Helms continues to make his presence felt, particularly in international affairs. And, Senator Gramm would have been a sure bet for re-election had he decided to stay.
In the great circle of life, younger conservatives such as Pennsylvania’s own Rick Santorum have already stepped into the void and Congressmen like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who is likely to replace Thurmond will bring a new burst of energy and fresh perspective to the institution. But, it is important to pause and reflect upon the profound impact Thurmond, Helms, and Gramm have had upon our great nation. They remained true to the values espoused by our Founding Fathers and were conservative when conservative wasn’t cool. They believed in individual liberty, the primacy of free markets, and in the religious convictions that this nation was founded upon.
In recent weeks, in the aftermath of the attack on America, patriotism and traditional values are in vogue again. What Thurmond, Helms, and Gramm understood is that those values were always present in the hearts and minds of the vast majority of Americans. It may have taken a horrific terrorist attack for those values to be reflected in the popular culture and by the mass media. But they are values this trio of patriots always understood, championed, and in large measure were successful in transforming into public policy.
Even as they announced their retirements Helms and Thurmond in particular were the victims of unflattering commentaries in the liberal press – a badge of honor frankly that reflects their unfaltering adherence to principal in a city not noted for honoring that particular quality.  We owe a debt of gratitude to these three retiring senators who, like Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, helped transform the national debate, returned a great nation to its philosophical roots, and made life a little better for all of us.  To Senators Thurmond, Helms, and Gramm, a heartfelt “thank you.”