Letters shed light on long-secret Thurmond-Washington-Williams relationship

February 5, 2013 

Reporters searching the Clemson University archives found more than two dozen new documents relating to the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond and his daughter, Essie Mae Washington Williams, who died Monday. A half-dozen previously were published, and Williams said there were many more. Some letters in the archives refer to other letters that are missing. Other letters -- from the 1980s and 1990s -- were listed in indexes but later discarded by librarians unaware of their value, according to librarians handling the collection.

April 29, 1946

An unmarried Essie Mae Washington writes from 205 W. 111th St. in New York City. The letter is handwritten on a piece of pink stationery, folded in half.

Judge Thurmond:

I wish to let you know that I received the telegram. Thank you very much. I'm getting along as well as ever. School is fine; finals will be this month. I haven't heard anymore from A&M about my acceptance as yet. I hope to as soon as possible. I will let you know when I do. Until then am sincerely yours,

Essie Mae

(An office worker or librarian later added “ Washington .”)

Oct. 9, 1946

Gov. Thurmond 's clerk, Sara Holmes, writes to “Mr. E.M. Washington “ of Manning Hall, State College, Orangeburg.

Dear Mr. Washington :

Your letter to Mr. Thurmond was received in his office today. I regret to inform you that Mr. Thurmond is in Washington and will not return before Saturday of this week.

Oct. 31, 1947

Washington writes a typed letter to “Governor J.S. Thurmond , The State Capitol, Columbia, South Carolina.” Handwritten at the top of the page is: “Personal. Rec. 8:30 a.m., Nov. 4, 1947.”

Dear Sir:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your loan received on Saturday, October 25. Thank you very much.

Very truly yours,

E.M. Washington

June 29, 1950

“E.M. Williams “ writes a handwritten letter from Coatesville, Pa., to “Gov. J.S. Thurmond , State Capitol, Columbia, South Carolina.”

Dear Gov. Thurmond :

Please let me have a loan of seventy-five dollars. I plan to leave here in about two weeks, so may I hear from you within that time. With best wishes,

Yours truly,

E.M. Williams

July 2 or 3, 1958

The date is only partially legible on this letter from Thurmond to “Mrs. Essie Mae Williams “ of 423 S. Maie Ave., Compton, Calif.

Dear Mrs. Williams :

Pursuant to your request, I am enclosing herewith the pamphlet entitled “How Our Laws are Made.” It is an interesting pamphlet, and I hope you will find it useful. In acknowledging receipt of this letter, I suggest you put “very personal” on the envelope so your reply will come directly to my desk.

July 20, 1964

Sen. Thurmond 's personal secretary in Washington , D.C., LaRose Smith, writes to “Mrs. E.M. Williams” of 1720 Barnard St., Savannah, Ga.

Senator Thurmond has been in South Carolina for several days but will be in the city [ Washington ] Thursday and the rest of this week. Since you have written about a finance matter, I would suggest that you call him over the phone at his residence some night about 9 or 10 p.m. The number of his Washington residence is FE7-3096.

July 28, 1964

Thurmond himself writes Williams to ask that she call him and refers to a loan for the first time.

My recollection is, without looking up the note, that there is some balance due on the loan I made you last.

Dec. 18, 1965

“E.M. Williams” sends Thurmond a Christmas card. The card has an image of candles on the front, along with the words “A Christmas Prayer For You.” “The Little Bible,” glued to the inside of the card, is visible through a cutout on the front. The inside verse on the card reads:

“God grant you joy at Christmas Time, and through the coming year. God Bless you with good health, good friends, and all that you hold dear. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.”

In the lower left corner, the card says: “Keep this little Bible as a remembrance of the prayers and good wishes that go with you always.”

The card is signed: “E.M. Williams and Family”

A handwritten note stapled to the card says: “Would it be convenient to make an appointment with you before the 1st of April? Please let me know. My telephone number is 294-2503.”

Jan. 4, 1966

Thurmond writes to “Mr. E.M. Williams “ of 5114 Chesley Ave., Los Angeles, Calif.

This acknowledges receipt of the nice Christmas card you and your family sent me, and I wish to thank you for your thoughtfulness.

I expect to be in Washington for some time now, except for weekend trips to South Carolina, and should be pleased for you to stop by my Senate office whenever you are in Washington .

I hope the New Year will bring you and your family good health and happiness and with best wishes,

Sincerely,

Strom Thurmond

June 9, 1972

Thurmond writes to the same Los Angeles address.

Dear Essie Mae :

This acknowledges receipt yesterday of the invitation to your graduation from the University of Southern California June 8 with a Master of Science Degree in Education.

I am writing to express my congratulations to you upon reaching this milestone in your life. It is an achievement to obtain a bachelor's degree, but to be awarded a master's degree is a still greater feat, and I know your family and your friends are proud of this accomplishment on your part.

I understand you are teaching school, so this additional degree should be of added benefit to you in becoming more competent as well as increase your remuneration as a teacher.

So many people are not willing to pay the price in added work, additional effort and increased responsibility to obtain a master's degree, and I was pleased to learn about your having done this.

I am forwarding to you under separate cover a graduation gift. Please let me know if it does not arrive within a reasonable length of time.

I wish you success in all of your undertakings and with kindest regards to you and your family.

Very truly,

Strom Thurmond

June 9, 1972

Thurmond writes a granddaughter, “Wanda Lee Williams,” at the same Los Angeles address.

Dear Wanda:

Nancy and I were happy to learn of your upcoming graduation and regret that we will be unable to be with you on this happy occasion.

May I take this opportunity to congratulate you upon attaining this milestone in life. I wish you continued success in all your future undertakings, and if I can ever be of assistance to you in any way, please call upon me.

I am forwarding a graduation gift to you under separate cover. If it does not arrive within a reasonable length of time, please let me know.

With kindest regards and best wishes,

Very truly,

Strom Thurmond

May 23, 1973

Thurmond writes to “Mrs. Essie M. Williams “ of the same Los Angeles address.

Thank you for your kind letter of recent date in which you inquired about the progress of your application for a Mid-Level position with the Federal Government. I contacted appropriate authorities and will see if we can get a status report.

It was good of you to write and with kindest regards and best wishes,

Very truly,

Strom Thurmond

July 5, 1974

Thurmond writes to “Mrs. E.M. Williams” of the same Los Angeles address.

This acknowledges receipt of the plaque with the verse on it “Children Learn What They Live.” This is a very interesting poem, and you are very kind to send it.

I hope you and your family are doing nicely, and with kindest regards,

Very truly,

Strom Thurmond

May 5, 1975

Thurmond writes to “Mrs. E. W. Williams “ of the same Los Angeles address.

Thank you for your additional letter concerning Chaplain Herbert M. Turner. Be assured I was glad to express my interest to the Army in his behalf, and I regret that the previous reply which I sent to you was not favorable. I am confident that the Army would not have taken such action as it did if it had not been in the best interest of the Army. Such things are sometimes difficult to understand, but I certainly hope that Chaplain Turner gets along in his future career as a reverend without further difficulty.

I hope you are doing nicely, and with kindest regards and best wishes,

Very truly,

Strom Thurmond

June 20, 1975

One of Thurmond 's grandsons, Ronald Williams of 5114 Chesley Ave., Los Angeles, writes the senator. The letter is marked “very personal.”

Dear Senator Thurmond ,

This letter is in response to a request from my mother, Mrs. Essie Williams , regarding her conversation with you on June 16, in reference to my getting into a medical school next year. Early in July, I will be applying to at least six California medical schools and six out-of-state schools because of the difficulty of getting into any of them. Among the out-of-state schools, I am including Bethesda School [the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences] and the Medical University of South Carolina for admission to the 1976-77 class. I would appreciate any additional information you may have on either of those schools, and I would be grateful for a recommendation from you at a later date.

In order to acquaint you with my educational background and my work experience, I am enclosing a resume and a college transcript. If you desire further information, please let me know.

Sincerely yours,

Ronald Williams

July 11 and July 14, 1975

Thurmond writes identical letters to the dean at the USC school of medicine and the presidents of MUSC and the Uniformed Services University.

A young black man, Mr. Ronald Williams , who is originally from South Carolina but presently resides in California, is applying to be admitted to medical school for the fall of 1976. For your reference, I am enclosing copies of his resume and college transcript.

If you are currently accepting students from out of state, and as the federal government is encouraging the education of young blacks within the professions, I feel that Mr. Williams would be a most worthy candidate for admission. He is a very bright and deserving individual and I would appreciate your giving his application your most careful consideration.

With best wishes,

Strom Thurmond

Oct. 9, 1975

“Ronald J. Williams “ of Alhambra, Calif., writes Thurmond . It is marked “very personal.”

Dear Senator Thurmond ,

Thank you very much for your interest in helping me get into medical school. I am confident that with the assistance of a man of your stature I will be successful. I have submitted my application to AMCAS [the American Medical College Application Service] and have written to Senators Tunney and Cranston and to Chairman Packard as you suggested. I have also sent some information to . . . the Medical University of South Carolina.

Enclosed is a copy of my AMCAS application which I feel aptly summarizes my interests and abilities. I will keep you appraised of any developments. Thank you again.

Sincerely,

Ronald J. Williams

July 18 and July 21, 1975

Officials at USC and MUSC write Thurmond , telling him that they give preference to South Carolina residents over non-residents, such as Williams .

Jan. 21, 1976

Thurmond writes to Ronald Williams of Alhambra. He addresses him by his first name.

Dear Ronald,

Thank you for your letter enclosing a copy of your application to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS).

Be assured it is a pleasure for me to recommend you to Doctor [Anthony] Curreri, President of USUHS, which I am doing today. I will advise him to contact you regarding an interview, if this is desired by the University.

With kindest regards and best wishes,

Very truly,

Strom Thurmond

Feb. 3, 1976

Thurmond writes to Ronald Williams of Alhambra. He again addresses him by his first name.

Dear Ronald:

Enclosed is a copy of a letter from Doctor Curreri in response to my recommendation of you for admittance to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS).

Be assured I was glad to recommend you, and I hope you are successful in being accepted. Your mother called the other day about helping you all I could. Apparently, she did not know that I had already contacted Doctor Curreri. Consequently, it will not be necessary for you to send another letter to me, as discussed with her.

As you know, the competition is extremely stiff for [USUHS], especially this first year for the University. Only about 36 will be selected out of several thousand applicants.

With kindest regards and best wishes,

Very truly,

Strom Thurmond

July 25, 1976

Thurmond writes Ronald Williams of 5114 Chesley Ave., Los Angeles.

Dear Mr. Williams :

Enclosed is a copy of correspondence I have received from the University of South Carolina which is self-explanatory. I thought you might like to have this for your files, and be assured it was a pleasure for me to assist in this matter.

Any time I can be of further service to you, please feel free to call on me.

With best wishes,

Very truly,

Strom Thurmond

June 16, 1989

Thurmond writes a short note to “Mrs. Essie Williams “ of Los Angeles to thank her for the Father's Day card she sent. Thurmond wrote:

This was most thoughtful of you, and I appreciate your thinking of me. I hope you are doing nicely . . .

The card from Williams , attached to Thurmond 's response, shows a pastoral scene. It reads: “We all have special people in our lives who mean a little more, who make our world a little better . . . This comes to you on Father's Day because you're one of those special people. Happy Father's Day!”

Sincerely,

Essie Williams and Family

June 15, 1990

Thurmond writes a short note to “Mrs. Essie Williams” of Los Angeles to thank her for the Father's Day card she sent. The card has an image of flowers on the front. It reads:

“Every once in a while, you meet someone who is very special . . . someone who touches your life in a beautiful way. You're that someone special to me. Happy Father's Day.”

Best wishes for you and your family.

Sincerely,

Essie Williams

June 17, 1991

Thurmond writes a short note to “Mrs. Essie Williams “ of Los Angeles to thank her for the Father's Day card she sent. The Father's Day card has an image of flowers on the front, along with the words, “Our Wishes For You.” Inside, it reads:

“We hope your day is happy as it ought to be for you . . . We hope you'll just enjoy it, doing things you like to do . . . We hope that all your hopes and plans work out the way they should, And life for you is always filled with everything that's good. Happy Father's Day.”

Sincerely,

Essie Williams and Family

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