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Strom Thurmond
Strom Thurmond, c 1961 (cropped).jpg
Thurmond in 1961
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
January 20, 2001 – June 6, 2001
Preceded by Robert Byrd
Succeeded by Robert Byrd
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Robert Byrd
Succeeded by Robert Byrd
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1987
Preceded by Warren Magnuson
Succeeded by John C. Stennis
President pro tempore emeritus of the United States Senate
In office
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Robert Byrd
United States Senator
from South Carolina
In office
November 7, 1956 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by Thomas A. Wofford
Succeeded by Lindsey Graham
In office
December 24, 1954 – April 4, 1956
Preceded by Charles E. Daniel
Succeeded by Thomas A. Wofford
103rd Governor of South Carolina
In office
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 the Edgefield County district
In office
January 10, 1933 – January 14, 1938
Preceded by Thomas Greneker
Succeeded by William Yonce
Personal details
James Strom Thurmond

(1902-12-05)December 5, 1902
Edgefield, South Carolina, U.S.
Died June 26, 2003(2003-06-26) (aged 100)
Edgefield, South Carolina, U.S.
Resting place Edgefield Village Cemetery
Political party
Other political
Dixiecrat (1948)
  • Jean Crouch
    (m. 1947; died 1960)
  • Nancy Moore
    (m. 1968; sep. 1991)
Children 5, including Essie, Strom Jr., and Paul
Education Clemson University (BS)
Military service
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service 1942–1964
Rank Major general
Unit United States Army Reserve

James Strom Thurmond Sr. (December 5, 1902 – June 26, 2003) was an American politician who represented South Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 to shortly before his death in 2003. Prior to his 48 years as a senator, he served as the 103rd governor of South Carolina from 1947 to 1951.

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."

Early life and education (1902–1933)

James Strom Thurmond was born on December 5, 1902, in Edgefield, South Carolina. He was the second of six children born to John William Thurmond (1862–1934) and Eleanor Gertrude Strom (1870–1958). Thurmond's father was a lawyer who served as a county supervisor and representative to the South Carolina General Assembly. Strom's mother came from a well-known Edgefield family. She was a deeply religious woman, known for delivering prayers. Thurmond learned to ride ponies, horses, and bulls from an early age. When Thurmond was four, his family moved into a larger home, where they owned about six acres of land. His home was frequently visited by politicians and lawyers.

Thurmond attended Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina (now Clemson University), where he studied horticulture. At Clemson, he served as the president of Calhoun Literary Society, where he debated and learned parliamentary procedure. Thurmond graduated from Clemson in 1923 with a Bachelor of Science degree.

After his graduation, Thurmond worked as a farmer, teacher, and athletic coach.

In 1929, he was appointed as Edgefield County's superintendent of education. While serving as superintendent of education, he began studying to become a lawyer by reading law under his father's guidance.


Thurmond was a member of the Democratic Party until 1964 when he joined the Republican Party for the remainder of his legislative career. He also ran for president in 1948 as the Dixiecrat candidate, receiving over a million votes and winning four states.

A staunch opponent of civil rights legislation during the 1950s and 1960s, Thurmond conducted the longest speaking filibuster ever by a lone senator, at 24 hours and 18 minutes in length, in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957. In the 1960s, he voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite his support for racial segregation, Thurmond denied the accusation that he was a racist. By the 1970s, Thurmond started to moderate his stance on race, but continued to defend his prior support for segregation on the basis of states' rights and Southern society at the time.

Thurmond served three times as President pro tempore of the United States Senate, and chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1981 to 1987 and the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1995 to 1999. He retired in 2003 as the first centenarian member of either chamber of Congress while still in office and the oldest-serving senator. His 48 years as a senator, a record at the time, is the fourth-longest in U.S. history behind Robert Byrd, Daniel Inouye, and Patrick Leahy. At 14 years, Thurmond was also the longest-serving Dean of the United States Senate in political history.

Personal life

Thurmond was married twice and fathered five children.


Thurmond died of heart failure in his sleep at 9:45 p.m. on June 26, 2003, at a hospital in his hometown of Edgefield, South Carolina. He was 100 years old. He was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery in Edgefield, in his family burial plot.


  • The Strom Thurmond Foundation, Inc., provides financial aid support to South Carolina residents in financial need. The Foundation was established in 1974 by Thurmond with honoraria received from speeches and donations from friends and family.
  • A reservoir on the GeorgiaSouth Carolina border is named after him: Lake Strom Thurmond.
  • The University of South Carolina is home to the Strom Thurmond Fitness Center, one of the largest fitness complexes on a college campus. The new complex has largely replaced the Blatt Fitness center, named for Solomon Blatt, a political rival of Thurmond. In July 2021, the university's Presidential Commission on University History recommended removing Thurmond's name from the building.
StromThurmond GeorgeBush
Thurmond receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H. W. Bush, 1993
  • Charleston Southern University has a Strom Thurmond Building, which houses the school's business offices, bookstore, and post office.
  • Thurmond Building at Winthrop University is named for him. He served on Winthrop's Board of Trustees from 1936 to 1938 and again from 1947 to 1951 when he was governor of South Carolina.
  • A statue of Strom Thurmond is located on the southern grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol as a memorial to his service to the state.
  • The Strom Thurmond Federal Building and United States Courthouse is named after him.
  • Strom Thurmond High School is located in his hometown of Edgefield, South Carolina.
  • Al Sharpton was reported on February 24, 2007, to be a descendant of slaves owned by the Thurmond family. Sharpton has not asked for a DNA test.
  • The U.S. Air Force has a C-17 Globemaster named the Spirit of Strom Thurmond.
  • The mobilization complex at Fort Liberty, North Carolina (commonly known as 'Green Ramp') is named in his honor.
  • In 1989, he was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Ronald Reagan.
  • Strom Thurmond Boulevard, located in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, is named in his honor.
  • In 1993, he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W. Bush.
  • The Strom Thurmond Institute is located on the campus of Clemson University.

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See also

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