Thurmond was born James Strom Thurmond in Edgefield, South Carolina, to John Williams Thurmond and Eleanor Gertrude Strom. He lived in relative comfort, one paper reporting on his seventh birthday that "one-hundred little folks of the town assembled in response to invitations from Master Strom Thurmond."
Strom was said to have decided at age 10 that he would run for governor, and mentioned in a later interview that one of his favorite activities was attending court sessions after school.
Life at Clemson
While at Clemson Strom Thurmond Participated in several extracurricular activities and organizations, such as the Calhoun Literary Society, Varsity Track, the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, as well as being named 1st Lieutenant of the Cadet Corps his Senior year. Thurmond graduated in 1923 with a degree in Horticulture.
After graduating from Clemson, Thurmond returned home to Edgefield County to teach and was elected to the office of the Edgefield County Superintendent of Education in 1929.
Thurmond was admitted to the State Bar in 1930, and served as the Edgefield Town and County Attorney from 1930-1938. In 1930, he was elected to the South Carolina Senate, and served until he was elected as an Eleventh Circuit Judge. He resigned his seat on the bench to join the U.S. Army in 1942, where he was attached to the 82nd Airborn Division and fought in the Battle of Normandy. In appreciation for his services, Thurmond recieved 18 separate military awards.
Not long after his return, Thurmond was elected as the Governor of South Carolina, running on the Democratic ticket on the platform of federal and state transparency. His participation was instrumental in the arrest of suspects related to the death of Willie Earl, the last recorded lynching in South Carolina, for which he received the appreciation of the ACLU and NAACP.
Thurmond ran for president in the 1948 for an independent subset of the Democratic Party, called the States' Rights Democratic Party. He only recieved 39 electoral votes.
Strom Thurmond ran for the U.S. Senate unsuccessfully in 1950 and 1952, before his landslide election in 1954 as a write-in candidate, on the platform that the candidate suggested by the Democratic Party was insufficient, and that he would resign in 1956 to trigger a primary. As a result Thurmond became the first write-in Senate candidate to be successfully elected while running against an opponent listed on the ballot. After his resignation, he ran again in 1956 and won the Democratic Primary in South Carolina, as well as the Senate election.
After spending years at odds with the Democratic Party, Thurmond switched his affiliation to the Republican Party in 1964. He lost the following election to the Democratic candidate.
Thurmond was elected President pro-tempore of the Senate in 1981, served as a Senate Judiciary Committee Member in 1991, became the oldest serving member of the Senate in 1996, the longest serving member of the Senate in 1997, cast his 15,000th vote in 1998, and was elected the first President pro-tempore emeritus in 2001.
Thurmond left the senate in 2003, mentioning in his farewell speech "I love all of you, especially your wives."
Later Life and Death
After retiring from the Senate, Thurmond once again returned home to Edgefield, S.C., where he died in 2003, in his sleep of heart failure while in the hospital. His body lied in state under the State House house rotunda in Columbia until it was transported to First Baptist Church for a eulogy by Senator Joe Biden and later interred in Willowbrook Cemetary in Edgefield.
After his death, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, an African-American woman, revealed that she was Strom Thurmond's daughter. Her mother had been Thurmond's parent's housekeeper and was 16 when Washington-Williams was born. Thurmond had been 22. Thurmond had paid for the girl's college and had also supported her financially later in her life. This statement publicly acknowledged by the Thurmond family and their lawyer shortly thereafter.
The Strom Thurmond Institute
In 1981, During his Senatorship, Strom Thurmond endowed Clemson University with his official papers and memorabilia accrued during his 65+ years of service, including personal photographs and documents pertaining to Thurmond's life. The Institute houses the Thurmond collection as well as the University Libraries' Special Collections, and is "required to make maximum use of these valuable records and conduct the Institute's programs."
- Wikipedia: Strom Thurmond
- SCIway Governor Profiles: James Strom Thurmond
- This Kid's Going Places! Strom Thurmond's Childhood in Historical S.C. Newspapers
- The Strom Thurmond Institute at Clemson University
- Clemson University Libraries - Special Collections: Strom Thurmond: A Life In Pictures
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