Monday, December 31, 2018

Guy L. Helms (1898-1932)

Soldier, Newspaperman, Editor, Author
Born September 8, 1898, Salisbury, North Carolina
Died February 21, 1932, Salisbury, North Carolina

Guy Liston Helms was born on September 8, 1898, in Salisbury, North Carolina, to Clarence E. and Emma B. Helms. He enlisted in the U.S. Army before the American entry into the Great War and served as a recruiter in his hometown of Salisbury in 1916-1917. Helms trained at Fort Caswell, North Carolina, and went overseas, to France, in late 1917 or early 1918. He served in the 4th Company, 2nd Trench Mortar Battery, 2nd Infantry Division, a division that fought in most of the major engagements on the Western Front from July to November 1918. Helm's division served in occupied Germany after the war and returned to the United States in July 1919. Helms attained the rank of sergeant during his time in service.

Guy Helms was gassed during the Great War, though I don't know when or where. That injury determined the course of the rest of his life and resulted in his early death. After returning stateside and being discharged in May 1919, he took up studies in electrical engineering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That didn't last long, for in October 1919, he had to give up his studies and repair to a hospital in Statsen (sic), Wisconsin. Helms tried again, entering Columbia University, in Missouri, in the summer of 1920. Yet again he was forced to give up his studies and return to a hospital in Milwaukee.

The third time may have been the charm. In late 1920 or early 1921, Helms began studying at the Marquette University School of Journalism. In 1922, while still a student, he worked as poetry and exchange editor at the Marquette Journal. That same year he was appointed chief of staff of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), department of Wisconsin. He had previously been editor of Legion-Airs, a monthly newspaper printed by the Sergeant Arthur Kloepful Post of the American Legion in Milwaukee. By 1925, Helms was back with the American Legion as the editor of The Badger Legionnaire and director of a news bureau, which wrote and distributed news stories of interest to Wisconsin veterans.

Guy L. Helms wrote just one story for Weird Tales, "The Dancing Partner," in the jumbo-sized first-anniversary issue of May/June/July 1924. Helms would have been at the time affiliated with veterans' organizations, probably the American Legion, which had its national headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. Indianapolis was also the city in which Weird Tales had its editorial offices (perhaps a grandiose description of what must have been only one or two rooms in an ordinary office building). By late 1924, both Weird Tales and The American Legion Magazine were being printed by the Cornelius Printing Company of Indianapolis. The November 1924 issue of Weird Tales was the first in which Farnsworth Wright, another veteran of the war, was credited as editor. I write all of this to point out that, again as in the case of Orville R. Emerson, there's reason to think that veterans of the Great War were drawn to submit their stories to Weird Tales through some kind of connection to the American Legion. I don't know what evidence there might be in favor of such a supposition--maybe an advertisement or a bit of correspondence. More likely, any evidence of such a connection has long since disappeared.

Guy L. Helms returned to his hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina, late in life, and that is where he died, on February 21, 1932, from complications of having been gassed during the war. He was survived by his parents, his wife, and his two children and was buried at Salisbury National Cemetery in Salisbury.

* * *

This is how I will close out the hundredth-anniversary year of the end of the Great War, which was, as should be so painfully clear to us now, one of the most disastrous events in human history. Like Guy Helms and millions of other men and women, we are still paying a price for that war, and we will go on paying a price far into the future. I hope there will come a time when we and our civilization will recover, just as its veterans hoped that they would one day recover. There is so much that depends on it. Some of the alternatives are unthinkable. They may in fact represent a slow slide into ice. The fire of the past might have been preferable, despite all of the suffering, pain, destruction, and death it caused, for even as the fire raged, there was still a chance for a different outcome. Now we are left in the aftermath of the war, living closer to ice than to fire. But as Robert Frost wrote, "for destruction ice/Is also great/And would suffice."

Guy L. Helms' Story in Weird Tales
"The Dancing Partner" (May/June/July 1924)

Further Reading
I have assembled this biography from snippets of information appearing in newspapers in North Carolina and Wisconsin from about 1915 to 1932. There is otherwise little that I could find on Helms, his life, or his career. I have to wonder, though, whether he was related to Jesse Helms, the longtime senator from North Carolina.

(Despite the image above:)

Happy New Year to Readers of Weird Tales!

Copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Any family connection between Guy Helms and Senator Jesse Helms? Both from the same part of North Carolina, and both, interestingly, began as newspapermen.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I don't know whether Guy Helms and Jesse Helms were related, but I suspect there was some connection, even if was sometime in the distant past.


  2. Happy New Year, Terence. Looking forward to more of your well-researched posts in 2019.

    1. Thanks, John,

      There's still a lot going on back home that tears me away from my writing and other work, but I'll give it my best. Happy New Year to you, too.