(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 Southern Democrat and, after 1964, as a Republican.
A magnet for controversy during his nearly half-century Senate career, Thurmond switched parties because of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his support for 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.
At 14 years, he was also the longest-serving Dean of the United States Senate in U.S.
In opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957, he conducted the longest speaking filibuster ever by a lone senator, at 24 hours and 18 minutes in length.
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.
Despite being a pro-segregation Dixiecrat, 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 working as his family's maid, and was either 15 or 16 years old when 22-year-old Thurmond impregnated her in early 1925.
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.