updated 6/9/2005 8:14:41 AM ET 2005-06-09T12:14:41

In his upcoming memoir, former Sen. Jesse Helms acknowledges he was wrong about the AIDS epidemic but believes integration was forced before its time by “outside agitators who had their own agendas.”

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“Here’s Where I Stand,” to be published in September by Random House, contains Helms’ first extended comments on national affairs since the Republican retired from the Senate in 2003 after five terms. Advance proofs were described in Thursday’s editions of The News & Observer of Raleigh.

Helms, 83, was one of the state’s leading voices of segregation as a TV commentator in Raleigh in the 1960s and opposed nearly every civil rights bill while in the Senate. He has never retracted his views on race or said segregation was wrong.

In the book, Helms suggests he believed voluntary racial integration would come about without pressure from the federal government or from civil rights protests that he said sharpened racial antagonisms.

“We will never know how integration might have been achieved in neighborhoods across our land, because the opportunity was snatched away by outside agitators who had their own agendas to advance,” according to the uncorrected proof. “We certainly do know the price paid by the stirring of hatred, the encouragement of violence, the suspicion and distrust.”

Helms also was an outspoken opponent of laws to protect homosexuals from discrimination and of funding for AIDS research, but he writes in the book that his views evolved during his final years in the Senate. He cited friendships he developed with North Carolina evangelist Franklin Graham and rock singer Bono, both of whom got him involved in the fight against the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

“Until then,” Helms writes, “it had been my feeling that AIDS was a disease largely spread by reckless and voluntary sexual and drug-abusing behavior, and that it would probably be confined to those in high-risk populations. I was wrong.”

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