For 30 years, North Carolina’s Sen. Jesse Helms earned his favored nickname as “Senator No” by blocking nominees, including African Americans, from becoming federal judges.
And though Helms died a decade ago, his legacy lives on in an unusually bitter battle over filling a long vacant federal judgeship in Raleigh and eastern North Carolina.
There, more than one-fourth of the population is black, yet no African American has ever served as a federal judge.
President Obama nominated two African American women for the seat: Jennifer May-Parker, an assistant U.S. attorney in Raleigh, and Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court. Both were...