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Monroe is a city in Union County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 26,228 at the 2000 census. It is the seat of government of Union County.
In 1843, the first Board of County Commissioners, appointed by the General Assembly selected an area in the center of the county to be called Monroe, as the county seat. Monroe was incorporated in 1843. Monroe was named for James Monroe, the country’s fifth president.
Monroe is also the hometown of Jesse Helms, the late U.S. Senator from North Carolina who served five terms (1973 - 2003) in the Senate. Helms was a prominent (and often controversial) national leader of the Religious Right wing of the Republican Party, and played a key role in helping Ronald Reagan become President of the United States. Helms's father was the Police Chief of Monroe for many years. The Jesse Helms Center is in neighboring Wingate, NC.
Monroe also became a focal point during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1958, local NAACP Chapter President Robert F. Williams defended a nine-year-old African-American boy who had been kissed by a white girl in an incident known as the Kissing Case. A second African-American boy, aged seven, was also convicted and sentenced to live in a juvenile reformatory until he was 21 for simply witnessing the act. In 1961, Williams was accused of kidnapping a man and woman, members of the Ku Klux Klan, who had taken shelter in his house during a moment of high racial tensions. Williams went into exile and lived in Cuba and China before returning to the United States as an adviser to the United States government. Williams is one of Monroe's most famous residents, and he was a leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement.