Thurmond, Strom

Thurmond, Strom (James Strom Thurmond) thûrˈmənd [key], 1902–2003, U.S. senator from South Carolina (1954–2003), b. Edgefield, S.C. He read law while teaching school (1923–29) and was admitted to the bar in 1930. Thurmond was elected (1932) a state senator and became (1938) a circuit-court judge. After serving in World War II, he was elected (1946) governor of South Carolina. In 1948, Thurmond was nominated for president by the States' Rights Democrats (“Dixiecrats”), southerners who bolted the Democratic party in opposition to President Truman's civil-rights program; he won 39 electoral votes. In 1954 he was a successful write-in candidate for U.S. Senate. In 1957 he staged the longest filibuster in Senate history, speaking for over 24 hours against a civil-rights bill. Thurmond switched from the Democratic to the Republican party in 1964, and later chaired the Senate judiciary (1981–87) and armed services (1995–99) committees. In 1996 he became the oldest sitting, and in 1997 the longest serving, U.S. senator in history (Robert Byrd surpassed him as the latter in 2006). The posthumous revelation in 2003 that he had a daughter in 1925 with an African-American maid and that he and his child had had a warm relationship proved a thought-provoking footnote to his career.

See J. Bass and M. Thompson, Ol' Strom (1999); J. Crespino, Strom Thurmond's America (2012).

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