|United States Senator
from South Carolina
November 7, 1956 – January 3, 2003
|Preceded by||Thomas A. Wofford|
|Succeeded by||Lindsey Graham|
December 24, 1954 – April 4, 1956
|Preceded by||Charles E. Daniel|
|Succeeded by||Thomas A. Wofford|
|President pro tempore emeritus of the United States Senate|
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Robert Byrd (indirectly)|
|President pro tempore of the United States Senate|
January 20, 2001 – June 6, 2001
|Preceded by||Robert Byrd|
|Succeeded by||Robert Byrd|
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2001
|Preceded by||Robert Byrd|
|Succeeded by||Robert Byrd|
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1987
|Preceded by||Warren G. Magnuson|
|Succeeded by||John C. Stennis|
|Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee|
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 1999
|Preceded by||Sam Nunn|
|Succeeded by||John Warner|
|Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee|
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1987
|Preceded by||Ted Kennedy|
|Succeeded by||Joe Biden|
|103rd Governor of South Carolina|
January 21, 1947 – January 16, 1951
|Lieutenant||George Bell Timmerman, Jr.|
|Preceded by||Ransome Judson Williams|
|Succeeded by||James F. Byrnes|
|Member of the South Carolina Senate
from Edgefield County
January 10, 1933 – January 14, 1938
|Preceded by||Thomas Benjamin Greneker|
|Succeeded by||William Preston Yonce|
|Born||James Strom Thurmond
December 5, 1902
Edgefield, South Carolina, U.S.
|Died||June 26, 2003
Edgefield, South Carolina, U.S.
|Resting place||Willowbrook Cemetery, Edgefield, South Carolina|
|Political party||Democratic (before 1964)
|Spouse(s)||Jean Crouch (m. 1947; d. 1960)
Nancy Moore (m. 1968)
|Children||5, including Essie Mae and Paul Reynolds|
|Alma mater||Clemson University|
|Years of service||1924–1964|
|Awards||Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star with valor
World War II Victory Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Order of the Crown
Croix de Guerre
James Strom Thurmond (December 5, 1902 – June 26, 2003) was an American politician who served for 48 years as a United States Senator from South Carolina. He ran for president in 1948 as the States Rights Democratic Party candidate, receiving 2.4% of the popular vote and 39 electoral votes. Thurmond represented South Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 until 2003, at first as a Democrat and, after 1964, as a Republican.
A magnet for controversy during his nearly half-century Senate career, Thurmond switched parties because of his disaffection with the support for civil rights of the national Democratic party, and his support for the conservatism of the Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater. In the months before switching, he had "been critical of the Democratic Administration for ... enactment of the Civil Rights Law", while Goldwater "boasted of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and made it part of his platform." Thurmond left office as the only member of either chamber of Congress to reach the age of 100 while still in office, and as the oldest-serving and longest-serving senator in U.S. history (although he was later surpassed in the latter by Robert Byrd and Daniel Inouye). Thurmond holds the record as the longest-serving member of Congress to serve exclusively in the Senate. He is also the longest-serving Republican member of Congress in U.S. history. At 14 years, he was also the longest-serving Dean of the United States Senate in U.S. history.
In opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957, he conducted the longest filibuster ever by a lone senator, at 24 hours and 18 minutes in length, nonstop. In the 1960s, he opposed the civil rights legislation of 1964 and 1965 to end segregation and enforce the constitutional rights of African-American citizens, including basic suffrage. He insisted he was not a racist, but was opposed to excessive federal authority, which he attributed to Communist agitators.
Starting in the 1970s, he moderated his position on race, but continued to defend his early segregationist campaigns on the basis of states' rights in the context of Southern society at the time. He never fully renounced his earlier positions.
Six months after Thurmond died at the age of 100 in 2003, his mixed-race, then 78-year-old daughter Essie Mae Washington-Williams (1925–2013) revealed he was her father. Her mother Carrie Butler (1909–1948) had been either 15 or 16 years old and working as his family's maid in early 1925 when the 22-year-old Thurmond initiated a sexual relationship with her. Butler died in 1948. Although Thurmond never publicly acknowledged Essie Mae Washington, he paid for her education at a historically black college and passed other money to her for some time. She said she kept silent out of respect for her father and denied the two had agreed she would not reveal her connection to Thurmond. His children by his marriage eventually acknowledged her. Her name has since been added as one of his children to his memorial at the state capitol.
James Strom Thurmond was born on December 5, 1902, in Edgefield, South Carolina, the son of Eleanor Gertrude (née Strom; 1870–1958) and John William Thurmond (1862–1934), a lawyer. His ancestry included English and German. He attended Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina (now Clemson University), where he was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Thurmond graduated in 1923 with a degree in horticulture.
After Thurmond's death in 2003, an attorney for his family confirmed that in 1925, when he was 22, Thurmond fathered a mixed-race daughter, Essie Mae Washington, with his family's housekeeper, Carrie Butler, then 16 years old. Thurmond paid for his daughter's college education and provided other support. Essie Mae Washington was raised by her maternal aunt and uncle, and was not told about Thurmond as her father until she was in high school, when she met him for the first time.
After college, Thurmond worked as a farmer, teacher and athletic coach until 1929, when at age 27 he was appointed as Edgefield County's superintendent of education, serving until 1933. Thurmond studied law with his father as a legal apprentice and was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1930.
He was appointed as the Edgefield Town and County attorney, serving from 1930 to 1938. In 1933 Thurmond was elected to the South Carolina Senate and represented Edgefield until he was elected to the Eleventh Circuit judgeship.
In 1942, at 39, after the U.S. formally entered World War II, Judge Thurmond resigned from the bench to serve in the U.S. Army, rising to lieutenant colonel. In the Battle of Normandy (June 6 – August 25, 1944), he landed in a glider attached to the 82nd Airborne Division. For his military service, he received 18 decorations, medals and awards, including the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star with Valor device, Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Belgium's Order of the Crown and France's Croix de Guerre.
Thurmond's political career began under Jim Crow laws that effectively disenfranchised almost all blacks from voting, at a time when they constituted the majority of the state's population. Running as a Democrat in the one-party state, Thurmond was elected Governor of South Carolina in 1946, largely on the promise of making state government more transparent and accountable by weakening the power of a group of politicians from Barnwell, which Thurmond dubbed the Barnwell Ring, led by House Speaker Solomon Blatt.
Many voters considered Thurmond a progressive for much of his term, in large part due to his influence in gaining the arrest of the perpetrators of the lynching of Willie Earle. Though none of the men were found guilty by the all-white jury and the defense called no witnesses, Thurmond was congratulated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for his efforts to bring the murderers to justice.
On May 31, 1949, Thurmond held a ceremony in his office commemorating the acquisition of Camp Croft into the South Carolina State Park system.
In 1948, President Harry S. Truman ordered the end of racial discrimination in the U.S. Army, proposed the creation of a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission, supported the elimination of state poll taxes (which effectively discriminated against poor blacks and whites in voting), and supported drafting federal anti-lynching laws.
In response, Thurmond became a candidate for president on the third party ticket of the States’ Rights Democratic Party (also known as the Dixiecrats). It split from the national Democrats over the threat of federal intervention in state affairs regarding segregation and Jim Crow. Thurmond's supporters took control of the Democratic Party in the Deep South, and Truman was not included on the presidential ballot in Alabama because that state’s Supreme Court ruled void any requirement for party electors to vote for the national nominee. Thurmond stated that Truman, Thomas Dewey and Henry A. Wallace would lead the US to totalitarianism. He called civil rights initiatives dangerous to the American constitution and making the country susceptible to communism in the event of their enactment, challenging Truman to a debate on the issue. Thurmond carried four states and received 39 electoral votes, but Truman was reelected.
I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.[a]
According to the state constitution, Thurmond was barred from seeking a succeeding second term as governor in 1950, so he mounted a Democratic primary challenge against first-term U.S. Senator Olin Johnston. In the one-party state of the time, the Democratic primary was the only competitive contest. Both candidates denounced President Truman during the campaign. Johnston defeated Thurmond 186,180 votes to 158,904 votes (54% to 46%). It was the only statewide election which Thurmond lost.
In 1952, Thurmond endorsed Republican Dwight Eisenhower for the Presidency, rather than the Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson. State Democratic Party leaders blocked Thurmond from receiving the nomination to the Senate in 1954, and he ran as a write-in candidate.
The incumbent U.S. Senator, Burnet R. Maybank, was unopposed for re-election in 1954, but he died in September of that year, two months before Election Day. Democratic leaders hurriedly appointed state Senator Edgar A. Brown, a member of the Barnwell Ring, as the party's nominee to replace Maybank. The Brown campaign was managed by future Governor John C. West. In a state where the Democratic nomination was tantamount to election, many criticized the party's failure to elect a candidate by a primary vote. Thurmond announced he would mount a write-in campaign.
At the recommendation of Governor James Byrnes, Thurmond campaigned on the pledge that if he won, he would resign in 1956 to force a primary election which could be contested. At the time, South Carolina was a one-party state. For all intents and purposes, the Democratic primary was the real contest for most state races from the local level all the way to the U.S. Senate. The Republican Party, which attracted the support of most of the state's black voters, had a voice in choosing the Republican presidential nominee, but was all but powerless at the state level.
Thurmond won the 1954 election overwhelmingly, becoming the first person to be elected to the U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate against ballot-listed opponents. As promised, in 1956 Thurmond resigned to run in the party primary, which he won. Afterward, he was repeatedly elected to the US Senate by state voters until his retirement 46 years later.
In January 1955, Thurmond stated that federal encroachment with states' rights was among the biggest threats to American life and that he had studied the issue of federal encroachment which he furthered violated the constitution. Thurmond spoke of the importance of education, saying it "should be a primary duty of the states just as national defense is a primary obligation of the federal government." In April 1955, President Eisenhower sent Thurmond a telegram requesting that he give Byrnes his greetings. In July, Thurmond announced he was backing the plan for expanded military reserve law including peacetime officers receiving compulsory training espoused by the Eisenhower administration. Thurmond argued the bill's enactment would strengthen President Eisenhower during the Geneva Big Four summit. Thurmond stated his opposition to an alternate plan proposed by Richard Russell, which would abolish compulsory feature in addition to adding a bonus of 400 dollars to males forgoing active duty, saying he did not believe patriotism could be purchased. By November, Chairman of the U. S. Tariff Commission Edgar Brossard promised Thurmond that his position on American wool protections would be a factor in negotiating tariff agreements at the beginning of the following year.
Congress rejected a civil rights bill in 1956, Eisenhower introducing a modest version the following year meant to impose an expansion of federal supervision of integration in southern states. In an unsuccessful attempt to derail the bill's passage, Thurmond made the longest filibuster ever conducted by a single senator, speaking for a total of 24 hours and 18 minutes. Cots were brought in from a nearby hotel for the legislators to sleep on while Thurmond discussed increasingly irrelevant and obscure topics, including his grandmother's biscuit recipe. Other Southern senators, who had agreed as part of a compromise not to filibuster this bill, were upset with Thurmond because they thought his defiance made them look incompetent to their constituents. Alternatively, Thurmond was pressured by South Carolina Governor George Bell Timmerman Jr., an opponent of the pro-civil rights stances imposed by the Eisenhower administration, Timmerman wanting Thurmond to take part in a filibuster. By the time of the filibuster, Thurmond had become known as one of the most vocal opponents of the legislation. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 on August 29.
Thurmond supported racial segregation throughout much of his career. He wrote the first version of the Southern Manifesto, announcing southern disagreement with the 1954 US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that public school segregation was unconstitutional. The manifesto originated from Thurmond and Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd approaching Georgia Senator Richard Russell, Jr. with a proposal to compose and release a statement indicative of southern politicians views on the Supreme Court decisions regarding integration. Along with James Eastland, Allen Ellender, and John Stennis, Thurmond was part of the group of Southern Senators that met continually in the office of Russell in early 1956 and shared a commonality of being dispirited with Brown v. Board of Education.
Thurmond would later assert the Brown v. Board of Education decision as the beginning of the Supreme Court instilling liberal leaning views across the United States that continued with subsequent rulings.
The 87th United States Congress began without a move to remove Thurmond from the ranks of the Senate Democrats, in spite of Thurmond's predictions to the contrary. An aide for Senator Joseph S. Clark Jr. said there was never an intention to pursue recourse against Thurmond for not supporting the 1960 Democratic ticket and an interview, in which Senator Clark expressed the opinion that Thurmond should no longer be a member of the party, was only a personal view of Clark and not reflective of his intent as an office holder.
In February 1961, Thurmond stated his support for the United States imposing quotas per country and category on textile imports during a letter to his constituents, noting that the same practice was being imposed by other countries. He added that American industry would be destroyed by government subsidies that would convert the textile industry to other fields, his reason for opposing the proposal. On August 31, 1961, Thurmond formally requested the Senate Armed Services Committee to vote on whether to vote for "a conspiracy to muzzle military anti-Communist drives." The appearance prompted the cancellation of another public appearance in Fort Jackson, as Thurmond favored marking his proposal with his presence, and his request for a $75,000 committee study was slated for consideration by the committee. In November, Thurmond went on a five-day tour of California. At a news conference on November 28, Thurmond stated that President Kennedy had lost support in the South due to the formation of the National Relations Boards, what he called Kennedy's softness on communism, and an increase in military men being muzzled for speaking out against communism. Thurmond held resentment toward NBC for its lack of coverage of his military muzzling claims. On December 2, Thurmond delivered an address to the Arkansas American Legion conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, stating during which that he had been told that the State Department was preparing "a paper for the turning over of our nuclear weapons to the United Nations."
In January 1962, Thurmond charged the military speeches' censorship with having proven State Department officials sold US leadership on the country not wanting to win the Cold War. That month, Senate investigators into the military censoring disclosed having obtained documents not given to them by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Thurmond stated the evidence was obtained through checking with the individuals censoring, describing them as just taking orders. He added that the issue of censoring had predated the Kennedy administration, though charged the incumbent executive branch with having increased its practice. Eight months after its inception, the Senate investigation into military censorship ended on June 8. On August 17, 1962, Thurmond blocked the Senate vote on the nomination of Charles E. Bohlen for United States Ambassador to France. Bohlen was later confirmed. In September 1962, Thurmond called for an invasion of Cuba, publicly stating his belief that other countries in the Western Hemisphere would want to join the United States in intervention. He also opposed legislation that "would give the president unprecedented authority to lower or wipe out tariff wall [and] would provide for the first time broad government relief to industries and workers", the only Democrat to do so.
In a February 1963 newsletter, Thurmond stated that "the brush curtain around Cuba is a formidable Soviet strategic military base" and estimated between 30,000 and 40,000 Cuban troops were under the leadership of a Soviet general. Hours after the statement was made public, a Pentagon official disputed his claims as being "at wide variance with carefully evaluated data collected by U.S. intelligence" and called for Thurmond to release his proof to the Defense Department. A week after the Report to the American People on Civil Rights speech, President Kennedy sent Congress his civil rights bill on June 19, earning Thurmond's opposition. Thurmond engaged in a debate with Secretary of State Dean Rusk on President Kennedy's civil rights bill on July 10, 1963. Later that month, Thurmond accused radio and television networks of being in support of the views espoused by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, resulting in a dispute with Rhode Island Senator John Pastore. In the weeks leading up to the March on Washington, Thurmond delivered a Senate floor speech, during which accusing the march's organizer Bayard Rustin of "being a communist, a draft dodger and a homosexual." Rustin biographer John D'Emilio stated that Thurmond's remarks unintentionally gave Rustin further credit in the Civil Rights Movement: "Because no one could appear to be on the side of Strom Thurmond, he created, unwittingly, an opportunity for Rustin's sexuality to stop being an issue." Rustin denied Thurmond's charges on August 15. After the nomination of Paul Nitze for United States Secretary of the Navy, Thurmond participated in the November 7, 1963 hearing for Nitze, Thurmond being noted for asking Nitze "rapid fire questions on his views about military action" and his questions focusing on Nitze's participation as a moderator in the 1958 National Council of Churches conference. Along with Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, Thurmond delayed the Nitze nomination. In spite of Thurmond voting against him, Nitze was later approved for the position by the Senate Armed Services Committee on November 21, and sworn in later that month.
The day after the Nitze vote, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Thurmond expressed the view that a conspiracy would be found by investigators to have been responsible for JFK's death. Vice President Lyndon Johnson ascended to the presidency, beginning a campaign for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which angered white segregationists. These laws ended segregation and committed the federal government to enforce voting rights of citizens by the supervision of elections in states in which the pattern of voting showed blacks had been disenfranchised. Many conservatives strongly opposed these laws, including Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who filibustered the Civil Rights Act for 14 hours and 13 minutes on June 9 and 10, 1964.
During the signing ceremony for the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson announced the nomination of LeRoy Collins as the first Director of the Community Relations Service. Following the announcement, Thurmond reminded Collins of his past support for segregation and inferred that he was a traitor to the South, Thurmond having particular disdain for an address by Collins the previous winter in which he charged southern leaders with being harsh and intemperate. Thurmond also suggested that Collins had sought to fault southern leaders for President Kennedy's assassination. Thurmond was the only senator to vote against Collins' nomination being sent to the Senate, and later one of eight senators to vote against his nomination in the chamber.
Thurmond stated that his opposition to the Voting Rights Act was due to not favoring its authorization of the federal government to determine the processes behind how statewide elections are conducted and insisted he was not opposed to black voter turnout.
In 1966, former governor Ernest "Fritz" Hollings won South Carolina's other Senate seat in a special election. He and Thurmond served together for just over 36 years, making them the longest-serving Senate duo in American history. Thurmond and Hollings had a very good relationship, despite their often stark philosophical differences. Their long tenure meant their seniority in the Senate gave South Carolina clout in national politics well beyond its modest population.
On January 17, 1967, Thurmond was appointed to the Senate Judiciary subcommittee. In July 1967, after the 1967 USS Forrestal fire, Thurmond wrote of his conviction that the outbreak had been precipitated by communists. In September, Thurmond warned against enacting any of the three proposed Panama Canal treaties, which he said could lead to Communist control of the airway if enacted. The month also saw Thurmond note the belief by some individuals that working had become an outdated idea that was destined to become extinct with the rise of technology and voiced his disagreement with the notion.
In 1969, Time ran a story accusing Thurmond of receiving "an extraordinarily high payment for land". Thurmond responded to the claim on September 15, saying the tale was a liberal smear intended to damage his political influence, later calling the magazine "anti-South". At a news conference on September 19, Thurmond named Executive Director of the South Carolina Democratic Party Donald L. Fowler as the individual who had spread the story, a charge that Fowler denied. Thurmond decried the Supreme Court opinion in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education (1969), which ordered the immediate desegregation of schools in the American South. This had followed continued Southern resistance for more than a decade to desegregation following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. Thurmond praised President Nixon and his "Southern Strategy" of delaying desegregation, saying Nixon "stood with the South in this case".
On September 16, 1964, Thurmond confirmed he was leaving the Democratic Party to work on the presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, charging it with having "abandoned the people" and repudiated the U.S. Constitution as well as providing leadership for the eventual takeover of the US by socialistic dictatorship. He called on other Southern politicians to join him in bettering the Republican Party. Thurmond joined Goldwater in campaigning through Louisiana later that month, telling reporters that he believed Goldwater could carry South Carolina in the general election along with other southern states. Goldwater won South Carolina by a large margin in 1964.
On January 15, 1965, Senate Republicans voted for committee assignments granting Thurmond the ability "to keep at least some of the seniority power he had gained as a Democrat."
In June 1967, President Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall to succeed the retiring Tom C. Clark as Associate Justice. Along with Sam Ervin, Spessard Holland, and James Eastland, Thurmond was one of four senators noted for calling Marshall a "Constitutional iconoclast" in prolonged Senate speeches. On July 19, Thurmond questioned Marshall for an hour "on fine points of constitutional law and history", the move being seen as critics of the nomination turning their inquiry to the subject of Marshall's legal experience. On August 9, Thurmond stated that Marshall had evaded answering questions on his legal principals during committee hearings and in spite of his extensive experience, knew relatively little on issues members of the court faced daily and also had displayed an ignorance on basic constitutional principals. Marshall was confirmed for the Senate at the end of that month.
In June 1968, Chief Justice Earl Warren decided to retire, a move that resulted in President Johnson nominating Abe Fortas to succeed him. During the third day of hearing, Thurmond questioned Fortas over Mallory v. United States (1957), a case noted by Fortas biographer Laura Kalman as taking place before Fortas' tenure but for which he was still held responsible for by Thurmond nonetheless. Thurmond asked Fortas if the Supreme Court decision in the Mallory v. United States case was an encouragement of individuals to commit more serous crimes such as rape and if he believed in "that kind of justice", an inquiry that shocked the usually stoic Fortas. Thurmond displayed sex magazines, which he called "obscene, foul, putrid, filthy and repulsive", to validate his charges that Supreme Court's rulings overturning obscenity convictions had led to a large wave of hardcore pornography material. Thurmond stated that Fortas had backed overturning 23 of the 26 lower court obscenity decisions. Thurmond also arranged for the screening of explicit films that Fortas had purportedly legalized to be played before reporters and his own Senate colleagues. In September, Vice President Hubert Humphrey spoke of a deal made between Thurmond and Nixon over Thurmond's opposition to the Fortas nomination. Both Nixon and Thurmond denied Humphrey's claims, Thurmond saying that he had never discussed the nomination with Nixon while conceding the latter had unsuccessfully tried to sway him from opposing Fortas.
In December 1968, Thurmond stated that President Johnson had considered calling for a special session of Congress to nominate Arthur J. Goldberg as Chief Justice before becoming convinced there would be problems during the process.
In an April 25, 1969 Senate floor speech, Thurmond stated that The New York Times "had a conflict of interest in its attacks on Otto F. Otepka's appointment to the Subversive Activities Control Board." On May 29, Thurmond called for Associate Justice William O. Douglas to resign over what he considered political activities. Douglas remained in office for another six years. In the latter part of the year, President Nixon nominated Clement Haynsworth for Associate Justice. This came after the White House consulted with Thurmond throughout all of July, as Thurmond had become impressed with Haynsworth following their close collaboration. Thurmond wrote to Haynsworth that he had worked harder on his nomination than any other that had occurred since his Senate career began. The Haynsworth nomination was rejected in the Senate. Years later, at a March 1977 hearing, Thurmond told Haynsworth, "It's a pity you are not on the Supreme Court today. Several senators who voted against you have told me they would vote for you if they had it to do again."
On October 23, 1966, Thurmond stated that President Johnson could be defeated in a re-election bid by a Republican challenger since the candidate was likely to be less obnoxious than the president.
Thurmond was an early supporter of a second presidential campaign by Nixon, his backing coming from the latter's position on the Vietnam War. Thurmond met with Nixon during the Republican primary and promised he would not give in to the "depredations of the Reagan forces." At the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida, Thurmond, along with Mississippi state chairman Clarke Reed, former U.S. Representative and gubernatorial nominee Howard Callaway of Georgia, and Charlton Lyons of Louisiana held the Deep South states solidly for Richard M. Nixon despite the sudden last-minute entry of Governor Ronald Reagan of California into the race. Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York was also in the race but having little effect. In the fall 1968 general election, Nixon won South Carolina with 38 percent of the popular vote and gained South Carolina's electoral votes. With the then-segregationist Democrat George Wallace on the ballot, the South Carolina Democratic voters split almost evenly between the Democratic Party nominee, Hubert Humphrey, who received 29.6 percent of the total vote, and Wallace, who received 32.3 percent. Other Deep South states swung to Wallace and posted weak totals for Nixon.
Thurmond had quieted conservative fears over rumors that Nixon planned to ask either liberal Republicans Charles Percy or Mark Hatfield to be his running mate. He informed Nixon that both men were unacceptable to the South for the vice-presidency. Nixon ultimately asked Governor Spiro Agnew from Maryland—an acceptable choice to Thurmond—to join the ticket.
During the general election campaign, Agnew stated that he did not believe Thurmond was a racist when asked his opinion on the matter. Clayton Fritchey of the Lewiston Evening Journal cited Agnew's answer over the Thurmond question as an example of the vice presidential candidate not being ready for the same "big league pitching" Nixon had shown during the 1952 election cycle. Thurmond participated in a two-day tour of Georgia during October, saying that a vote for American Independent Party candidate George Wallace was a waste, adding that Wallace could not win nationally and would only swing the election in favor of Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey by having the Democratic Party majority House of Representatives select him in the event none of the candidates receive enough electoral votes to outright win the presidency. Thurmond also stated that Nixon and Wallace had similar views and predicted Nixon would carry Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Texas and Tennessee. Nixon carried each of these states with the exception of Texas.
Thurmond faced no opposition in the Republican primary and was renominated in March 1966. Thurmond competed against Bradley Morrah, Jr. in the general election campaign. Morrah avoided direct charges against Thurmond's record and generally spoke of his own ambitions in the event he was elected. He referred to Thurmond's time in the Senate as being ineffective.
Thurmond won election with 62.2 percent of the vote (271,297 votes) to Morrah's 37.8 percent (164,955 votes).
Thanks to his close relationship with the Nixon administration, Thurmond was able to deliver a great deal of federal money, appointments and projects to his state. With a like-minded president in the White House, Thurmond became a very effective power broker in Washington. His staffers said his goal was to be South Carolina's "indispensable man" in Washington, D.C.
In the 1970 gubernatorial election, Thurmond's preferred candidate, conservative U.S. Representative Albert W. Watson, was defeated by the more moderate opponent, Democrat John C. West, who had opposed Thurmond's initial write-in election to the Senate and the then outgoing lieutenant governor. Watson had defected to the Republicans in 1965, the year after Thurmond's own bolt, and had been politically close to the senator. Watson lost mainly after several Republican officials in South Carolina shied away from him because of his continuing opposition to civil rights legislation. Watson's loss caused Thurmond slowly to moderate his own image in regard to changing race relations.
In 1970, Thurmond urged Nixon to nominate another South Carolina Republican convert, Joseph O. Rogers, Jr., to a federal judgeship; he had been the party's unsuccessful 1966 gubernatorial nominee against the Democrat Robert Evander McNair. At the time Rogers was the U.S. Attorney in South Carolina. When his judicial nomination dragged on, Rogers resigned as U.S. attorney and withdrew from consideration. He blamed the Nixon administration, which he and Thurmond had helped to bring to power, for failure to advance his nomination in the Senate because of opposition to the appointment from the NAACP.
On February 22, 1970, Thurmond delivered an address at Drew University defending Julius Hoffman, a judge that had drawn controversy for his role in the Chicago Seven trial. Protestors threw marshmallows at Thurmond in response to the speech, Thurmond telling the hecklers that they were cowards for not hearing what he had to say.
In late February 1971, when Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy visited South Carolina to deliver an address in Charleston, Thurmond gave remarks to the Charleston Chapter of the Air Force Association several hours earlier, mocking Kennedy for the Chappaquiddick incident. Thurmond noted that Brigadier General Thomas Kennedy's wife was named Joan, the same first name as Joan Bennett Kennedy, the senator's wife. He added that the Joan married to the Brigadier General had a husband who was a better driver.
On June 2, Thurmond attended the launch of the USS L. Mendel Rivers (SSN-686), during which he stated that the Soviet Union was building three submarines for every one built by the US and called for American submarine construction to be accelerated. At a July 1973 hearing, Thurmond suggested that the decision made by former Air Force Major Hal M. Knight to testify had to do with Knight's lack of advancement. Knight responded that he did not take an oath to support the military but instead the constitution.
In the 1976 Republican primary, President Ford faced a challenge from former California Governor Ronald Reagan, who selected Richard Schweiker as his running mate. Though Thurmond backed Reagan's candidacy, he, along with North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, led efforts to oust Schweiker from the ticket. During the subsequent general election, Thurmond appeared in a campaign commercial for incumbent U.S. President Gerald Ford in his race against Thurmond's fellow Southerner, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. In the commercial, Thurmond said Ford (who was born in Nebraska and spent most of his life in Michigan) "sound[ed] more like a Southerner than Jimmy Carter". After President-elect Carter nominated Theodore C. Sorensen as his choice to become Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Thurmond expressed reservations and fellow Senator Jake Garn said he believed Thurmond would not vote for the nomination. Sorensen withdrew from consideration days later, before a vote could be had.
A short time after Mississippian Thad Cochran entered the Senate in late 1978, Thurmond gave him advice on how to vote against bills intended to aid African-Americans but not lose their voting support: "Your black friends will be with you, if you be sure to help them with their projects."
In a July 17, 1970 Senate floor speech, Thurmond criticized the Nixon administration following the disclosure of Assistant Attorney General Jerris Leonard that 100 lawyers were intended to be sent for the monitoring of school districts at the start of a court ordered school desegregation plan. White House counselor Robert H. Finch stated the Senator was reacting to false information and that the administration was "not sending any large augmentation of people into the South."
On February 4, 1972, Thurmond sent a secret memo to William Timmons (in his capacity as an aide to Richard Nixon) and United States Attorney General John N. Mitchell, with an attached file from the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, urging that British musician John Lennon (then living in New York City) be deported from the United States as an undesirable alien, due to Lennon's political views and activism. The document claimed Lennon's influence on young people could affect Nixon's chances of re-election, and suggested that terminating Lennon's visa might be "a strategy counter-measure". Thurmond's memo and attachment, received by the White House on February 7, 1972, initiated the Nixon administration's persecution of John Lennon that threatened the former Beatle with deportation for nearly five years from 1972 to 1976. The documents were discovered in the FBI files after a Freedom of Information Act search by Professor Jon Wiener, and published in Weiner's book Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files (2000). They are discussed in the documentary film, The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006).
In March 1973, Thurmond was one of nine Republican senators to vote with the Democratic majority in favor of a measure demanding President Nixon to release the 120 million the Agriculture Department had not used toward water and rural area sewer systems.
In January 1975, Thurmond was one of four senators to vote against the creation of a special committee to investigation the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other government agencies intended to either gather intelligence or enforce the law.
In January 1976, the Senate voted in favor of expanding American fishing jurisdiction by 200 miles, a bill that Thurmond opposed. Thurmond was successful in implementing an amendment, which passed 93 to 2, postponing the date of its effect by a year. In consulting with President Ford by telephone, the latter confirmed to Thurmond that the added period brought about by his amendment would see him sign the bill in the interim.
In January 1977, Thurmond stated that he was opposed to the popular vote electing the president because it was "not true federalism." He advocated that senators not act with haste on the issue. In April 1977, Thurmond supported legislation forming a stringent code of ethics in the Senate with the intention of assisting with the restoration of public confidence in Congress. In August 1977, Thurmond announced he would cosponsor legislation providing free prescription drugs to senior citizens with Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. The bill would cover 24 million Americans over the age of 65 and was meant to augment the Medicare program with prescription drugs being paid for and given to individuals not hospitalized.
In August 1978, Thurmond joined other senators in voting for the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, which would have given the District of Columbia full representation in Congress along with participation in the Electoral College. He was one of the earliest supporters of its enactment and participated in floor debates on the measure. The Washington Post noted that Thurmond and other southern senators supporting the measure "provided one of the most vivid illustrations to date of the new reality of politics in the South, where the number of black voters has doubled in the past 13 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965." The amendment was ratified by sixteen states before meeting its expiration.
In March 1979, the Carter administration made an appeal to Congress for new powers to aid with the enforcement of federal laws as it pertains to housing discrimination. Thurmond refused to back the administration as he charged it with "injecting itself in every facet of people's lives" and said housing disputes should be settled in court. In July, after the Carter administration unveiled a proposed governing charter for the FBI, Thurmond stated his support for its enactment, his backing being seen by the New York Times as an indication that the governing charter would face little conservative opposition.
On April 11, 1971, Thurmond called for the exoneration of William Calley following his conviction of participating in the My Lai Massacre, stating that the "victims at Mylai were casualties to the brutality of war" and Calley had acted off of order. Calley's petition for habeas corpus was granted three years later, in addition to his immediate release from house arrest. In June 1971, during a speech, Thurmond advocated against lifting the trade embargo with China, stating that its communist regime had engaged in a propaganda effort to weaken State Department support for the embargo and that Americans would remember the decision with harshness. Two days later, President Nixon ordered trade with China be permitted, ending the embargo.
By early 1973, Thurmond expressed the view that American aid to the rebuilding of South Vietnam should be hinged on the amount of support it was receiving from China and the Soviet Union.
In 1974, Thurmond and Democrat John L. McClellan wrote a resolution to continue American sovereignty by the Panama Canal and zone. Thurmond stated that the rhetoric delivered by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suggested that the "Canal Zone is already Panamanian territory and the only question involved is the transfer of jurisdiction."
The period of late 1977 marked the beginning of an organized effort by conservatives to display opposition to the ratification of the Panama Canal treaty by the Senate, which included a scheduled televised appearance by Thurmond. Thurmond advocated for forging a new relationship with Panama and against the US giving up sovereignty in the canal zone, in addition to casting doubts on Panama's ability to govern alone: "There is no way that a Panarnaniain government could be objective about the administration of an enterprise so large in comparison to the rest of the national enterprise, public and private." In late August 1977, the New York Times wrote "President Carter can be grateful that the opposition to his compromise Panama treaty is now being led by Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina." Speaking on the Panama Canal neutrality treaty, Thurmond said it was "the big giveaway of the century." The treaty was ratified by the Senate on March 16, 1978.
In November 1979, President Carter nominated José A. Cabranes to fill a vacancy on the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. Thurmond submitted a series of written questions to Cabranes, whose answers were credited with clarifying his views on issues. Cabranes was confirmed for the position.
In his general election campaign, Thurmond faced Charles Ravenel, a local banker and former gubernatorial candidate. Ravenel charged Thurmond with not standing up for South Carolina's educational needs and having been behind the lack of funding. Thurmond responded to the charges by stating that he thought the state had made advancements in its education system. Thurmond and Ravenel made a joint appearance in April, where Thurmond discussed his position on a variety of issues.
The higher amount of African-Americans voting in elections was taken into account by the Ravenel campaign, which sought to gain this group of voters by reviving interest in older statements by Thurmond. Thurmond was noted, in his courting of black voters, to have not undergone "any ideological transformation" but instead devote himself to making personal contact with members of the minority group. Thurmond's influence in national politics allowed him to have correspondence with staffers from the Nixon administration which gave him "a unique advantage in announcing federal grants and bird-dogging federal projects of particular interest to black voters."
By May 1978, Thurmond held a 30-point lead over Ravenel among double digits of undecided voters. Thurmond won a fifth term with 351,733 votes to Ravenel's 281,119. The race would later be assessed as the last serious challenge to Thurmond during his career.
Thurmond supported the presidential candidacy of John Connally, announcing his endorsement on December 27, 1979. The Republican election cycle that year also featured Reagan, Thurmond explaining that he had chosen to back Connally this time around because of the latter's wide government experience which he believed would benefit the US in both domestic and foreign matters. Thurmond stated that the Iran hostage crisis would have never happened were Connally the sitting president as Iranians were familiar with his strength. The Washington Post noted Thurmond seeming "to cast himself for a role of regional leadership in the Connally campaign similar to the one he played in 1968" for the Nixon campaign. Connally subsequently was defeated in the South Carolina primary by Reagan, thanking the Thurmond and his wife for doing more to support his campaign in the state than anyone else. In August 1980, Thurmond gave a "tense cross examination" of Billy Carter, the brother of President Carter who had come under scrutiny for his relationship with Libya and receiving funds from the country. The Billy Carter controversy also was favored by Democrats wishing to replace Carter as the party's nominee in the general election. Thurmond questioned Carter over his prior refusal to disclose the amount of funds he had received from public appearances following the 1976 election of his brother as president, and stated his skepticism with some of the points made.
During a November 6, 1980 press conference, days after the 1980 Senate election, in which the Republicans unexpectedly won a majority, Thurmond pledged that he would seek a death penalty law. During an interview the following year, Thurmond said, "I am convinced the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. I had to sentence four people to the electric chair. I did not make the decision; the jury made it. It was my duty to pass sentence, because the jury had found them guilty and did not recommend mercy. But if I had been on the jury, I would have arrived at the same decision; in all four of those cases." After the presidential election, Thurmond and Helms sponsored a Senate amendment to a Department of Justice appropriations bill denying the department the power to participate in busing, due to objections over federal involvement, but, although passed by Congress, was vetoed by a lame duck Carter. In December 1980, Thurmond met with President-elect Reagan and recommended former South Carolina governor James B. Edwards for United States Secretary of Energy in the incoming administration. Reagan later named Edwards Energy Secretary, and the latter served in that position for over a year. In early January 1981, the Justice Department announced it was carrying out a suit against Charleston County for school officials declining to propose a desegregation method for its public schools. Thurmond responded to the announcement by noting that South Carolina did not support President Carter in the general election and stating that this may have contributed to the Justice Department's decision. On January 11, Thurmond stated that he would ask the incoming Reagan administration to look into the facts of the case before proceeding.
In 1970, blacks still constituted some 30 percent of South Carolina's population; in 1900, they had constituted 58.4 percent of the state's population. Thousands of blacks left the state during the first half of the 20th century in the Great Migration to escape the Jim Crow laws and seek opportunities in the industrial cities of the North and Midwest. After the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was implemented, African Americans were legally protected in exercising their constitutional rights as United States citizens to register to vote in South Carolina without harassment or discrimination. State politicians could no longer ignore this voting bloc, who were allied with increasing numbers of white residents who supported civil rights.
Thurmond appointed Thomas Moss, an African American, to his Senate staff in 1971. It has been described as the first such appointment by a member of the South Carolinian congressional delegation (it was incorrectly reported by many sources as the first senatorial appointment of an African American, but Mississippi Senator Pat Harrison had hired clerk-librarian Jesse Nichols in 1937). In 1983, he supported legislation to make the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. a federal holiday. In South Carolina, the honor was diluted; until 2000 the state offered employees the option to celebrate this holiday or substitute one of three Confederate holidays instead. Despite this, Thurmond never explicitly renounced his earlier views on racial segregation.
Thurmond became President pro tempore of the US Senate in 1981, and held the largely ceremonial post for three terms, alternating with his longtime rival Robert Byrd, depending on the party composition of the Senate. During this period, he maintained a close relationship with the Reagan administration.
In January 1982, Thurmond and Vice President George H. W. Bush were met with protestors while Thurmond was being inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame, the protestors holding signs charging Thurmond with racism and attacking the Voting Rights Act.
In the 1984 presidential election, Thurmond was cited along with Carroll Campbell and South Carolina Republican Party Director Warren Tompkins by Republicans as the forces binding the Reagan-Bush ticket to South Carolina's electoral votes. Thurmond attended President Reagan's October 15 re-election campaign speech in the Allied Health Building on the Greenville Technical College campus in Greenville, South Carolina.
Thurmond attended the September 7, 1985 dedication of the Richard B. Russell Dam, praising the dam with having met "the ever increasing needs of the Southeast."
In June 1986, Thurmond sent a letter to Attorney General Edwin Meese requesting "an inquiry into the activities of former Commerce Department official Walter Lenahan, and expressed concern about an alleged leak of U.S. trade information to textile-exporting nations."
On February 23, 1988, Thurmond endorsed fellow senator Bob Dole in the Republican presidential primary, acknowledging his previous intent to remain neutral during the nominating process. The Thurmond endorsement served to change the Dole campaign's initial plans of skipping the South Carolina primary, where Vice President Bush defeated Dole. The Bush campaign subsequently won other Southern states and the nomination, leading Michael Oreskes to reelect that Dole "was hurt by an endorsement that led him astray."
At the beginning of 1981, the incumbency of Thurmond as the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and President Reagan were seen as deterrents to any gun laws passing in the Senate. Thurmond publicly stated his belief that any measures introduced would be defeated by the committee. After the March assassination attempt on President Reagan, which ushered in bipartisan support for "legislation that would ban the importing of unassembled gun parts involved in the manufacture of cheap pistols often used by criminals", Thurmond stated his support for legislation imposing a ban on the gun components on a seven-point anti-crime program. He indicated his backing would only be in favor of passing measures to restrict criminals accessing guns, telling reporters, "I still think criminals are going to get guns. But if you take guns away from people who need them to protect their homes, that is unreasonable." Thurmond's announcement indicating his support for gun control legislation in the wake of the assassination attempt was seen as possibly indicating a change in the debate of regulations relating to firearms in the US. He announced plans to hold hearings on the seven-point proposal intended to address the questions surrounding the Reagan assassination attempt.
In early 1981, Thurmond stated his support for a balanced budget amendment as he believed Reagan's successor would unbalance the budget in spite of what Reagan did while in office. He added that there was not a timetable for getting it passed and that Congress was ahead of the newly-formed Reagan administration. Thurmond attended the July 12, 1982 Rose Garden speech by President Reagan on the balanced budget amendment. President Reagan stated the administration was "asking Majority Leader Baker, Senators Thurmond, Hatch, DeConcini, and Helms, as leaders of the 61 cosponsors, to help us secure its passage as rapidly as possible." On August 4, 1982, the Senate approved adopting a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget in the following years. Following the vote, Thurmond said, "This is a great day for America. We feel this is a step that will turn this country around, once it is ratified by the states." On January 26, 1983, a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget was introduced to the Senate, Thurmond and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch serving as its main cosponsors. Thurmond's remarks included calling for a haste to its enactment: "Congress has shown it is unable to control federal spending and, in doing so, has conceded it must be forced to do so. That is why this amendment is so urgently needed." In October 1985, Thurmond supported a plan to require a balanced budget by 1991.
Throughout early 1981, Thurmond and Helms urged President Reagan to curb textile imports, with Thurmond saying later that year that the first four months of 1981 had seen a 16 percent in textile imports "over a similar period in 1980." That year, President Reagan pledged in a letter to Thurmond to help South Carolina textile mills against their foreign competitors. The letter was pulled out by Chief of Staff James Baker during a December 1983 White House Cabinet Council on Commerce and Trade meeting, and was credited by two White House aides with ending "the council debate cold." President Reagan stated his support for tightening control of textile imports in December 1983. In December 1984, President Reagan vetoed H.R. 1562, Thurmond responded to the decision by stating that Reagan had heeded bad advice and predicted the veto would produce "more layoffs, more plant shutdowns and more long-term economic damage to an industry that is crucial to this nation."
In June 1981, Thurmond stated that MX missiles could potentially disrupt southwest lifestyles and called for a "reassessment of the country's commitment to a joint land, sea and air-based ballistic missile deterrent." Thurmond believed billions of dollars could potentially be saved in the event that military experts look into the sea-based missiles and the missiles would be less likely to attack if not based on land. In 1983, Thurmond supported legislation for the MX missile, voting for its development being funded by 625 million in May, and against the Gary Hart amendment that if enacted would have removed production for the missile from the military authorization bill of 1984 two months later.
The year of 1981 also saw the Voting Rights Act come up for another extension. Thurmond was one of the leaders in opposition to portions of the act, and said parts of the law were discriminatory toward states' rights as well as too strict toward communities that had adhered to it in the past.
On March 11, 1982, Thurmond voted in favor of a measure sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch that sought to reverse Roe v. Wade and allow Congress and individual states to adopt laws banning abortions. Its passage was the first time a congressional committee supported an anti-abortion amendment.
In July 1982, the House and Senate overrode President Reagan's veto of copyright legislation intended to retain employment in the American printing and publishing industries. Thurmond stated he could not understand President Reagan's authorization of recommendation on the part of what he called "middle-level bureaucrats" and how he could take advice from members of the aforementioned group amid a Labor Department report on the thousands of jobs that would be lost without the bill. Thurmond added that the legislation would retain "jobs for Americans", a rebuff of claims to the contrary on the part of Reagan.
In 1983, the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative group that bestowed points to politicians who voted for measures to reduce federal spending, gave Thurmond a 58 percent spending score, three points down from his rating two years prior.
In 1984, the Senate voted on a bill granting federal prosecution to weapon-carrying career robbers and giving 15 years of incarceration to those convicted. Along with Senator Ted Kennedy, Thurmond sponsored an amendment limiting the bill to third-time federal offenders. The amendment passed 77 to 12, and was sent to the House.
President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 on October 27, 1986, noting Thurmond as one of the "real champions in the battle to get this legislation through Congress". In November 1987, Thurmond introduced legislation that if enacted would require "alcoholic beverages to carry health warning labels similar to those on cigarettes", saying the legislation would be effective if it prevented anyone from drinking while being in a compromising position of health. The following year, Thurmond sponsored legislation designed to impose "five rotating warning labels on alcoholic beverages cautioning pregnant women not to drink, warning that alcohol is addictive and can increase the risks of hypertension, liver disase and cancer, that it impairs a person's ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and that alcohol consumption can be hazardous in combination with some drugs."
In 1988, Thurmond introduced an amendment to a bill by Chris Dodd calling for granting unpaid leaves for workers with either a newborn, newly adopted, or seriously ill child. The amendment called for severe penalties to individuals involved in the selling, transferring of control or buying of a child so he or she can be used in pornography. Thurmond forced a vote and the amendment passed 97 to 0.
In late 1981, Thurmond presided over the hearings of Sandra Day O'Connor, who President Reagan had nominated for Associate Justice. Thurmond granted Alabama Senator Jeremiah Denton an hour of questioning of O'Connor, twice the time allotted for other members of the chamber. Thurmond stated that O'Connor was "one of the choice nominees" for the Supreme Court that he had seen in all of his Senate career, furthering that she had all the qualities he believed "a judge needs." O'Connor was confirmed by the Senate.
In November 1982, President Reagan selected Harry N. Walters as his choice for Administrator of Veterans Affairs; Thurmond and Wyoming senator Alan Simpson were both critical of the president's lack of consultation with them prior to the announcement. Thurmond shortly afterward stated publicly his support for Walters, citing him as having "the education and experience to fill the position". Walters was confirmed for the position.
In January 1984, President Reagan announced the nomination of Edwin Meese for U.S. Attorney General to replace the resigning William French Smith. On March 13, 1984, Thurmond spokesman Mark Goodin announced Meese had agreed for a second round of questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee and that Thurmond "just feels it would be productive all the way around" to have another appearance by the nominee. At a news conference that month, Thurmond stated a lack of evident wrongdoing and his confidence in Meese stemming from Reagan having selected him: "Up to now, there's been nothing I've come across that would damage Mr. Meese. If President Reagan nominated the man, then he must be qualified." Meese was later confirmed by the Senate in February 1985. In May 1988, after Meese dismissed spokesman Terry Eastland, Thurmond stated that Eastland's reputation was fine and that he had concern toward the latest developments, adding "his voice to those of Republican lawmakers who have said they were increasingly concerned over the operations of the Justice Department under" Meese.
In March 1986, Daniel Anthony Manion, President Reagan's choice for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, answered a question by Thurmond at the beginning of a session before a Senate panel. Three months later, Thurmond called for a bipartisan vote for cloture, citing Manion as "entitled to have a vote by the Senate", and predicted there were enough votes to confirm him.
In August 1986, after President Reagan nominated Associate Justice William Rehnquist for Chief Justice of the United States, Thurmond said the questions poised toward Rehnquist during his confirmation hearings were disgraceful as well as part of an attempt to smear him. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Thurmond voted in favor of recommending Rehnquist's confirmation. Thurmond defended Rehnquist against charges of discrimination, saying the nomination would never have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee if its members felt any credibility to the claims.
In July 1987, President Reagan nominated Robert Bork as Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. The Los Angeles Times noted Thurmond as "one of Bork's key supporters on the Judiciary Committee." In October, after the Senate rejected Bork's nomination, Thurmond stated during a news conference that President Reagan's next nominee should be a person not "as controversial" and concurrently praised Bork as "a great judge who would have adorned the Supreme Court with honor." Thurmond also expressed his view that the next Supreme Court nominee should be someone from the South.
In April 1981, Thurmond stated that the US could move some of its West Germany soldiers to the East German and Czechoslovak borders in an attempt to improve both morale and combat readiness.
In October 1983, Thurmond stated his support for the United States invasion of Grenada, saying American efforts with other countries were "providing an opportunity for Grenadan citizens to regain control over their lives" and the US would be forced to watch centuries of progress crumble if the country was unwilling to make sacrifices. Thurmond voted against the Senate resolution declaring that American troops in Grenada would "withdrawn no more than 60 days later unless Congress authorized their continued presence there". President Reagan sent Thurmond a letter containing a report in line with the War Powers Resolution. Thurmond said the "ruling junta in Grenada" was directly threatening American lives.
In March 1986, after American warplanes took action against Libyan land, Thurmond stated the US "has the right and the duty to protect and defend itself when attacked, as it was today, without provocation." He refuted claims by the Libyan government that the attacks on US ships occurred in international waters and named Muammar Gaddafi as the individual who had orchestrated the acts of aggression toward the US.
Thurmond was a supporter of the Nicaragua rebels, saying that support for the group on the part of the United States was central to furthering America's view "in freedom and in protecting ourselves against Soviet totalitarianism." In August 1988, Senator Robert Byrd presented the White House with a modified version of the Democratic proposal on Contra aid. Thurmond responded to the plan by calling it unsatisfactory.
In 1988, some members of the Senate gave support to a law that would impose American participation in an international treaty outlawing genocide. Thurmond stated his intent to add a death penalty amendment in the event the bill reached the Senate floor, the maximum punishment of the bill in the United States being incarceration and Thurmond's measure conflicting with the anti-death penalty views of the bill's leading advocates. Democrats charged Thurmond with using parliamentary devices and Senate traditions to prevent a vote. Thurmond dropped the death penalty amendment when Democrats agreed to proceed with the confirmation of Republican judges. Several Democrats espoused the view that Thurmond had only been adamant in including the death penalty amendment to get something out of the Senate Democrats during the debate over the treaty.
In September 1983, President Reagan attended a fundraising dinner for Thurmond's re-election campaign in the Cantey Building at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, South Carolina. Reagan delivered an address both praising Thurmond and noting the similarities in his views and that of the administration. Thurmond announced he was running for a sixth full term on March 20, 1984. Thurmond faced his first primary challenge in 20 years, against retired agent of the Central Intelligence Agency Robert Cunningham, and won the Republican nomination on June 12, 1984. Cunningham charged Thurmond with being a follower who no one could validate the seriousness of as a candidate since he had not been challenged in eighteen years, furthering that the South Carolina Republican Party had been involved with the decline in his opposition. Cunningham said that Thurmond had a "bad track record" and noted his past comments on race, saying that he would not be crushed like Thurmond's past opponents and was getting much encouragement in his bid to unseat him. Thurmond addressed the issue of age during the primary, the 81-year-old senator stating that he exercised each day for an hour and a half and that he was in the same shape as a person in their 30s or 40s.
Thurmond defeated Melvin Purvis in the general election, the latter receiving half of the votes cast for Thurmond. Purvis, noted to have few differences in ideology with Thurmond, cited the latter's age as reason for his retirement from the Senate.
In early 1990, Thurmond sponsored a crime bill concurrent with another measure of the same intent, his version receiving the support of President Bush. Thurmond charged the Democratic proposal with aiding criminals and furthering the loss of rights on the part of victims. In 1992, the Senate voted on an anti-crime bill, Thurmond predicting that it would not pass due to what he considered its lack of strength: "This weak bill expands the rights of criminals. It is a fraud. It is a sham." He stated that President Bush had told him in advance of his intent to veto the bill if it passed.
In March 1990, Thurmond endorsed reducing the number of ways applicants to jobs needed to submit to verify they were legal citizens, as various forms were required to be submitted by all applicants under the Immigration Reform and Control Act.
Thurmond served as the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearings on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court in 1991 and worked closely with Joe Biden, then the chairman. He joined the minority of Republicans who voted for the Brady Bill for gun control in 1993.
Thurmond stumped for President Bush during the 1992 South Carolina Republican primary. In early 1992, Thurmond stated his intent to become the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, replacing John Warner. He traced his ambitions for the post to an interest in maintaining a strong defense as well as welfare for "the men and women who serve our nation so well." In October 1992, Hollings stated that Thurmond would learn, in the event of announcing a retirement, that he did not have "a home, a hometown, and would quickly discover he doesn't have any real friends." The comment caused Representative Tommy Hartnett to rebuke Hollings, demanding that he apologize for insulting Thurmond.
Following the 1994 Republican Revolution, in which the Republican Party gained eight seats in the Senate and gained a majority in both chambers, Senator Bob Dole stated that Thurmond would head the Armed Services Committee. In December, after President Clinton's announcement that he would seek a 25 billion increase in defense spending over the following six years, Thurmond called it a correct move but one which validated claims that the president had hastily cut the Pentagon budget.
In February 1995, during an interview, Thurmond stated that he had survived "a little power play" orchestrated by fellow Republicans, enabling him to continue serving as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman. In late 1995, Thurmond joined a bipartisan coalition of politicians in supporting a petition intending "to loosen the rules governing the prescription drug methlyphenidate". Thurmond attended the December 1995 funeral of South Carolina state senator Marshall Williams.
On December 5, 1996, Thurmond became the oldest serving member of the U.S. Senate, and on May 25, 1997, the longest-serving member (41 years and 10 months), casting his 15,000th vote in September 1998. In the following month, when astronaut and fellow Senator John Glenn was to embark on the Discovery at age 77, Thurmond, who was his senior by 19 years, reportedly sent him a message saying; "I want to go too."
Toward the end of Thurmond's Senate career, critics suggested his mental abilities had declined. His supporters argued that, while he lacked physical stamina due to his age, mentally he remained aware and attentive, and maintained a very active work schedule, showing up for every floor vote. He stepped down as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee at the beginning of 1999, as he had pledged to do in late 1997.
Declining to seek re-election in 2002, he was succeeded by then-Congressman and fellow Republican Lindsey Graham, who still remains the senior South Carolina Senator.
|Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, held at the Dirksen Senate office building, December 5, 2002, C-SPAN|
|Tour of Thurmond's Senate office prior to his retirement, December 19, 2002, C-SPAN|
Thurmond left the Senate in January 2003 as the United States' longest-serving senator (a record later surpassed by Senator Byrd). In his November farewell speech in the Senate, Thurmond told his colleagues "I love all of you, especially your wives," the latter being a reference to his flirtatious nature with younger women. At his 100th birthday and retirement celebration in December, Thurmond said, "I don't know how to thank you. You're wonderful people, I appreciate you, appreciate what you've done for me, and may God allow you to live a long time."
Thurmond's 100th birthday was celebrated on December 5, 2002. Some remarks made by Mississippi Senator Trent Lott during the event were considered racially insensitive: "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, [Mississippi] voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either." Fifteen days later, on December 20, Lott announced his resignation as the Senate Republican leader effective on January 3, the beginning of the next congressional session.
Thurmond announced his campaign for a seventh term on February 12, 1990, citing that he had never before felt "a stronger obligation to continue my work for the future of our state and our nation." Thurmond, then age 87, billed himself as having the health of a man in his fifties. The South Carolina Democratic Party faced difficulty recruiting a candidate which they believed had a chance of defeating Thurmond.
In the general election, Thurmond defeated retired intelligence officer Bob Cunningham.
Thurmond received primary opposition from Harold G. Worley and Charlie Thompson. Throughout his 1996 campaign, the question of age appeared again, Thurmond even remarking that the issue was the only one expressed by members of the press. Kevin Sack observed, "As Mr. Thurmond campaigns for history, polls show that the vast majority of South Carolinians believe it is far past time for him to retire." Worley stated that the issue of age should be dealt with in the primary as opposed to the general election, encouraging Thurmond to be dropped as the seat's continuous nominee.
In the general election, Thurmond received 53.4 percent of the vote to the 44 percent of Democrat Elliott Springs Close.
Thurmond was 44 when he married his first wife, Jean Crouch (1926–1960), in the South Carolina Governor's mansion on November 7, 1947. In April 1947, when Crouch was a senior at Winthrop College, Thurmond was a judge in a beauty contest in which she was selected as Miss South Carolina. In June, upon her graduation, Thurmond hired her as his personal secretary. On September 13, 1947, Thurmond proposed marriage by calling Crouch to his office to take a dictated letter. The letter was to her, and contained his proposal of marriage. Thirteen years later in 1960, Crouch died of a brain tumor at age 33; they had no children.
Thurmond married his second wife, Nancy Janice Moore (born 1946), on December 22, 1968. He was 66 years old and she was 22. She had won Miss South Carolina in 1965. Two years later, he hired her to work in his Senate office. They separated in 1991, but never divorced.
At age 68 in 1971, Thurmond fathered the first of four children with Nancy, who was then 25. The names of the children are Nancy Moore Thurmond (1971–1993), a beauty pageant contestant who was killed by a drunk driver; James Strom Thurmond, Jr. (born 1972), who became U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina and is the current South Carolina 2nd Judicial Circuit Solicitor; Juliana Gertrude (Thurmond) Whitmer (born 1974), who works for the American Red Cross in Washington, DC; and Paul Reynolds Thurmond (born 1976), who was elected as South Carolina State Senator representing District 41.
|Essie Mae Williams news conference, December 17, 2003, C-SPAN|
|After Words interview with Williams on her book Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond, February 6, 2005, C-SPAN|
|Presentation by Williams at the Palm Springs Book Festival, April 16, 2005, C-SPAN|
Six months after Thurmond's death, Essie Mae Washington-Williams publicly revealed she was his daughter. She was African American, was married and had a family; she was a retired Los Angeles Unified School District elementary school teacher with a master's degree. She was born on October 12, 1925, to Carrie "Tunch" Butler (1909–1948), who had worked for Thurmond's parents and was 16 years old when Thurmond, then 22, impregnated her. Though Thurmond never publicly acknowledged Washington-Williams while he was alive, he helped pay her way through a historically black college in South Carolina and continued to give her financial support well into her adult life. Washington-Williams said she did not reveal she was Thurmond's daughter during his lifetime because it "wasn't to the advantage of either one of us". She kept silent out of respect for her father and denied the two had agreed she would not reveal her connection to him.
After Washington-Williams came forward, the Thurmond family publicly acknowledged her parentage. Her name has been added to those of his other children on a monument to Thurmond installed at the statehouse grounds. Many close friends, staff members, and South Carolina residents had long suspected that Washington-Williams was Thurmond's daughter, as they had noted his interest in her. The young woman had been granted a degree of access to Thurmond more typical of a family member than to a member of the public.
Washington-Williams later said she intended to join the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, as she was eligible through her Thurmond ancestry. Thurmond was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a similar group for men. She encouraged other African Americans to learn their ancestry and join the lineage associations, to promote a wider sense of American history, including its long history of interracial families.
Thurmond died in his sleep on June 26, 2003, at 9:45 p.m. of heart failure at a hospital in Edgefield, South Carolina, at age 100. After lying in state in the rotunda of the State House in Columbia, his body was carried on a caisson to the First Baptist Church for services, where then-Senator Joe Biden delivered a eulogy, and later to the family burial plot in Willowbrook Cemetery in Edgefield, where he was interred.
Both senators have opposed the Administration on such matters as civil rights...
First, I will send to the Senate my nomination of LeRoy Collins to be Director of the Community Relations Service. Governor Collins will bring the experience of a long career of distinguished public service to the task of helping communities solve problems of human relations through reason and commonsense.
And Dr. Thomas Barton, a Clemson Tiger; Mayor Bill Workman, and Senator Strom Thurmond.
Evidently she is eligible: Senator Thurmond, once a fierce segregationist, was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a similar group for men.
|Booknotes interview with Nadine Cohodas on Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change, April 4, 1993, C-SPAN|
|Presentation by Jack Bass and Marilyn W. Thompson on Ol' Strom: An Unauthorized Biography of Strom Thurmond, January 12, 1999, C-SPAN|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Strom Thurmond.|
Ransome Judson Williams
|Governor of South Carolina
January 21, 1947 – January 16, 1951
James F. Byrnes
|Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
1981 – 1987
|President pro tempore of the United States Senate
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1987
John C. Stennis
|Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee
1995 – 1999
|President pro tempore of the United States Senate
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2001
|President pro tempore of the United States Senate
January 20, 2001 – June 6, 2001
Charles E. Daniel
|U.S. Senator (Class 2) from South Carolina
December 24, 1954 – April 4, 1956
Served alongside: Olin Johnston
Thomas A. Wofford
Thomas A. Wofford
|U.S. Senator (Class 2) from South Carolina
November 7, 1956 – January 3, 2003
Served alongside: Olin Johnston, Donald S. Russell, Ernest Hollings
|Party political offices|
|Dixiecrat nominee for
President of the United States
Milton R. Young
|Most Senior Republican United States Senator
John C. Stennis
|Dean of the United States Senate
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 2003
|New title||President pro tempore emeritus of the United States Senate
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
|Oldest living U.S. Senator
May 8, 1998 – June 26, 2003
|Oldest living U.S. governor
November 5, 2000 – June 26, 2003
Luis A. Ferré
|Earliest serving US governor still living
August 8, 2002 – June 26, 2003
|84th||Senate: O. Johnston • S. Thurmond • T. Wofford||House: J. Richards • J. McMillan • M. Rivers • J. Riley • B. Dorn • R. Ashmore|
|85th||Senate: O. Johnston • S. Thurmond||House: J. McMillan • M. Rivers • J. Riley • B. Dorn • R. Ashmore • R. Hemphill|
|86th||Senate: O. Johnston • S. Thurmond||House: J. McMillan • M. Rivers • J. Riley • B. Dorn • R. Ashmore • R. Hemphill|
|87th||Senate: O. Johnston • S. Thurmond||House: J. McMillan • M. Rivers • J. Riley • B. Dorn • R. Ashmore • R. Hemphill • C. Riley|
|88th||Senate: O. Johnston • S. Thurmond||House: J. McMillan • M. Rivers • B. Dorn • R. Ashmore • R. Hemphill • A. Watson • T. Gettys|
|89th||Senate: O. Johnston • S. Thurmond • D. Russell||House: J. McMillan • M. Rivers • B. Dorn • R. Ashmore • A. Watson • T. Gettys|
|90th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: J. McMillan • M. Rivers • B. Dorn • R. Ashmore • A. Watson • T. Gettys|
|91st||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: J. McMillan • M. Rivers • B. Dorn • A. Watson • T. Gettys • J. Mann|
|92nd||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: J. McMillan • B. Dorn • T. Gettys • J. Mann • F. Spence • M. Davis|
|93rd||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: B. Dorn • T. Gettys • J. Mann • F. Spence • M. Davis • E. Young|
|94th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: J. Mann • F. Spence • M. Davis • B. Derrick • K. Holland • J. Jenrette|
|95th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: J. Mann • F. Spence • M. Davis • B. Derrick • K. Holland • J. Jenrette|
|96th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • M. Davis • B. Derrick • K. Holland • J. Jenrette • C. Campbell|
|97th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • B. Derrick • K. Holland • C. Campbell • T. Hartnett • J. Napier|
|98th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • B. Derrick • C. Campbell • T. Hartnett • J. Spratt • R. Tallon|
|99th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • B. Derrick • C. Campbell • T. Hartnett • J. Spratt • R. Tallon|
|100th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • B. Derrick • J. Spratt • R. Tallon • L. Patterson • A. Ravenel|
|101st||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • B. Derrick • J. Spratt • R. Tallon • L. Patterson • A. Ravenel|
|102nd||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • B. Derrick • J. Spratt • R. Tallon • L. Patterson • A. Ravenel|
|103rd||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • B. Derrick • J. Spratt • A. Ravenel • J. Clyburn • B. Inglis|
|104th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • J. Spratt • J. Clyburn • B. Inglis • L. Graham • M. Sanford|
|105th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • J. Spratt • J. Clyburn • B. Inglis • L. Graham • M. Sanford|
|106th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • J. Spratt • J. Clyburn • L. Graham • M. Sanford • J. DeMint|
|107th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: F. Spence • J. Spratt • J. Clyburn • L. Graham • J. DeMint • H. Brown|
|107th||Senate: S. Thurmond • E. Hollings||House: J. Spratt • J. Clyburn • L. Graham • J. DeMint • H. Brown • J. Wilson|
None of the audio/visual content is hosted on this site. All media is embedded from other sites such as GoogleVideo, Wikipedia, YouTube etc. Therefore, this site has no control over the copyright issues of the streaming media.
All issues concerning copyright violations should be aimed at the sites hosting the material. This site does not host any of the streaming media and the owner has not uploaded any of the material to the video hosting servers. Anyone can find the same content on Google Video or YouTube by themselves.
The owner of this site cannot know which documentaries are in public domain, which has been uploaded to e.g. YouTube by the owner and which has been uploaded without permission. The copyright owner must contact the source if he wants his material off the Internet completely.