Strom: The Complicated Personal and Political Life of Strom Thurmond

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"In Strom, Jack Bass and Marilyn W. Thompson deliver a look at the life of Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. First elected to public office in 1929, Strom Thurmond was a pivotal figure in the nation's politics for more than six decades, particularly when it came to issues of race: he was the Dixiecrat presidential candidate in 1948, a drafter of the 1956 "Southern Manifesto" against the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, holder of the record for a Senate filibuster - twenty-four hours and eighteen minutes for a speech opposing the 1957
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Overview

"In Strom, Jack Bass and Marilyn W. Thompson deliver a look at the life of Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. First elected to public office in 1929, Strom Thurmond was a pivotal figure in the nation's politics for more than six decades, particularly when it came to issues of race: he was the Dixiecrat presidential candidate in 1948, a drafter of the 1956 "Southern Manifesto" against the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, holder of the record for a Senate filibuster - twenty-four hours and eighteen minutes for a speech opposing the 1957 Civil Rights Bill. Yet as a young man Thurmond had fathered a daughter with his family's black maid, and he quietly helped support this daughter for much of her life." "Essie Mae Washington-Williams, a seventy-eight-year-old former schoolteacher living in Los Angeles, California, publicly announced in December 2003 that she was the senator's long-rumored black daughter." Bass and Thompson are authorities on Senator Thurmond and, in Strom, explain how the senator's keen political skills and instincts enabled him to hold his office for so many years, how he made himself beloved and indispensable to so many constituents, and provide a tour of 20th century America's politics. With access to and interviews with Mrs. Washington-Williams for the book, they deliver a well-rounded portrait of these public and private lives. This is a thorough and revelatory look into this life and career, a history that tells us so much about power, politics, and race in our nation.
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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
When Strom Thurmond died in 2003 at the age of 100, he left behind one of the most complex and important legacies in contemporary U.S. politics. His father, who shot a man in broad daylight for insulting him (and was acquitted by a jury of his peers), was an adviser to "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman, head of the faction of South Carolina Democrats that ended Reconstruction by suppressing the African American vote. Strom inherited this mantle and carried four states as the Dixiecrat anti-civil rights candidate in 1948. A hard-line segregationist in a state of hard-liners, Thurmond led the resistance to civil rights until, as black voters began to make their presence felt, he started hiring black staff and began to serve black constituents with the same tenacity that had endeared him to generations of white South Carolinians. As a founder of the southern wing of the Republican Party, he became a presidential kingmaker and a key figure in turning courts back to the right.

In this riveting, Faulknerian book, Bass and Thompson give the first detailed account of Thurmond's relations with his "other" family — headed by the dignified Essie Mae Washington-Williams, Thurmond's illegitimate African American daughter, whose mother, originally a teenage servant in young Thurmond's family home, was his occasional companion for many years. (Among his other dangerous liaisons was a relationship with the formidable murderess Sue Logue, the first woman the state of South Carolina ever sent to the electric chair.) This portrait of Thurmond's life, a mixture of honor and intrigue, of Christian faith and dirty doings, describes more than the life of one man; it opens a window onto a region and a culture thatforeigners and non-southern Americans must understand to have a clear picture of how the United States works.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586482978
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 5/23/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.35 (d)

Meet the Author


Jack Bass teaches at the College of Charleston. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and is the author or co-author of six nonfiction books, including The Transformation of Southern Politics, Taming the Storm, winner of the 1994 Robert Kennedy Book Award, and the 1998 biography, Ol' Strom, on which he collaborated with Marilyn Walser Thompson.
Marilyn Walser Thompson was an award-winning reporter in South Carolina, where she covered Thurmond in the late 1970s. She later served as assistant managing editor for investigations at the Washington Post and in 2004 became vice president and editor of Kentucky's Lexington Herald-Leader. Thompson is the author or co-author of three previous nonfiction books.
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