Nick Galifianakis was a United States Congressman from North Carolina who served the U.S. House of Representatives between 1967 and 1973. He was born in Durham to Greek immigrants Sophia Kastrinakis and Mike Galifianakis and entered politics after finishing Law School, serving in the Marines and teaching law at Duke University. During his tenure in the House, he decided to run for the U.S. Senate and beat the incumbent U.S. Senator B. Everett Jordan in the Democratic Party primary.
Galifianakis led his Republican challenger, former television commentator Jesse Helms, by a substantial margin for most of the campaign, until Helms’ campaign got dirty and targeted Galifianakis’ Greek heritage. With the late-campaign slogan, “Jesse Helms: He’s One of Us,” an implicit provocation suggesting his opponent’s Greek heritage made him somehow less “American,” The Helms campaign poked fun at Galifinakis’ campaign pins that were created in sets of two since his whole name couldn’t fit on a single pin.
But in a South that was only beginning to break away from Jim Crow and segregated schools, Galifianakis’ long last name and ethnic heritage stood out as relatively exotic. He brushed off any such concerns, joking to reporters that his name is easy to remember: “It starts with a ‘Gal’ and ends with a kiss.” He would soon find out the politics of race and identity in the South did not always work so smoothly. Helms pulled away and defeated Galifianakis by eight points to become U.S. Senator.
Did you also know that Nick Galifianakis is an American cartoonist & artist? Since 1997, he has drawn the cartoons for the nationally syndicated advice column Carolyn Hax.