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Obit: Strom Thurmond

Strom Thurmond 1903 - 2003

By Les Miller

Strom Thurmond was a historical curiosity. He lived for 100 years. He served in the US Senate for 48 years. He performed public services for almost 80 years.

But there are some other intriguing historical sides to Strom Thurmond's
long life. He was born within a handful of generations of American
Independence. His grandfather was of age to have fought in the Civil
War. He was born during the time when the final vestiges of
Reconstruction were rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court,
paving the way for the institutionalization of the perverse Southern
mindset popularly known as "Jim Crow".

Mr. Thurmond's longevity meant that he personally witnessed the traumas and fractures of Southern nullification and the march to equal rights for the black man in America. There are those who will tell you that Senator Thurmond finally became a champion of the black man in South Carolina: history's pull was too strong for even the most recalcitrant segregationist to resist progress.

But history will forever remember Strom Thurmond as the prototypical
Dixiecrat. He personally undertook the effort to wreck the Democratic
Party in 1948 when he ran as the Presidential nominee: that effort was
the inspiration for Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy. From the 1950s
until the liberal victories of the Great Society, Mr. Thurmond, along
with bygone names like Russell, Stennis, Eastland, Talmadge, used the
halls of the United States Senate to fillibuster, block, and deny the
challenge of justice for all.

Strom Thurmond will forever be remembered as a vigorous and loud
segregationist. His longevity and his incredible service cannot hide
the inescapable truth that Strom Thurmond used his public mandate to
pervert justice and offend human dignity. In fact, he was chosen by his
electorate to do those very things.

Even though he lived a very long life, Strom Thurmond was from a time
and place that has, thankfully, been receding from collective memory
during the last forty years of his life. He will always be a symbol,
though, of a terrible time when race was the single most important issue
in Southern, and by extension American, life. He will always be
remembered by people who hate as one of their champions.