Segregationist Strom Thurmond's Mixed-Race Love Child
At 100 years old, Strom Thurmond remained a controversial figure all the way to his death bed -- which is exactly where he took a secret that could have ruined his political career.
Essie Mae Washington
Thurmond built his early political success on his workings as a staunch segregationist, fighting for causes that can only be described in hindsight as racist and backwards. It wasn't until weeks after his death in 2003 that Americans learned the depth of Thurmond's hypocrisy. That's when Essie Mae Washington, the daughter of a black maid from South Carolina, spoke 7 words that changed the nature of Thurmond's legacy forever: "My Father's Name Was James Strom Thurmond."
Washington revealed that not only was Thurmond her biological father, but he had done the right thing for her. Washington was born in 1925 when Thurmond was 22 and her mother, a house maid for his family, was 16. Thurmond never forgot his responsibility, helping to support her, and even paying her way through college at South Carolina State University.
Washington did not know Thurmond was her biological father until her mother introduced them when she was 16. She maintained a relationship with Thurmond throughout his life, though the two disagreed about his segregationist work on the state level and later in the Senate, where he served from 1956-2003.
Of her long silence, Washington said, "I was sensitive about his well-being, his career and his family. I never wanted to do anything to harm him."
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