Strom Thurmond filled many a page in The State newspaper for nearly 70 years.
Born in Edgefield County in 1902, Thurmond served as teacher, education superintendent, state senator, judge, governor and U.S. senator.
Thurmond had superb people skills and enjoyed helping others. During his 48 years as a U.S. senator, his constituent service was one of the best. He sent millions in federal aid back to South Carolina for countless projects.
In World War II, Thurmond rode a glider into Normandy in the great D-Day invasion of France. That action was typical – he was a lifelong fitness buff who sought physical challenges.
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Born into a white supremacist society where the Ku Klux Klan kept African-Americans in line by threat of violence, Thurmond used his public positions to promote racist ends. As senator he, blocked national bills that would have granted blacks equal rights. In the 1950s, he even voted against statehood for Hawaii because its population wasn’t white enough. In 1964, he quit the Democratic Party and led Southern whites to the Republican Party.
Around 1970, Thurmond moderated his stands. He hired African-Americans for his staff, helped appoint blacks as federal judges and in 1983 voted for a national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. He was hailed as a changed man who embraced service to all.
After Thurmond’s death at 100 in 2003, his great secret came to light. In the 1920s, Thurmond had fathered a girl with a young black woman. Her name – Essie Mae Washington-Williams – as well as those of Thurmond’s four other children, is on a State House monument.
Thurmond never called for lowering the Confederate flag. But last year his son, State Sen., Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, helped convince other senators to vote to take the flag down.
About this series: The inaugural edition of The State newspaper was published Feb. 18, 1891. In anticipation of the 125th anniversary, the Palmetto section and this section at thestate.com are recounting each day how The State covered newsmakers and events vital to South Carolina’s history.