The truth has a biological advantage. It doesn't need the artifice of man to survive. It lives and breathes freely on its own.
78-year old Essie Mae Washington-Williams recently confirmed one of the oldest rumors of Southern political folklore: that she is the mixed-race daughter of former US Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC).
Williams, whose mother worked as a maid in the Thurmond family home, has long rumored to be Thurmond's daughter. In a 1968 book, writer Robert Sherrill alleged that Thurmond had fathered a mixed race child. In 1972, the front page of a local South Carolina newspaper announced that Thurmond fathered a "colored offspring." In 1992 The Washington Post referred to Williams as Thurmond's "supposed daughter."
During the Senators lifetime, Thurmond's family and staffers repeatedly denied the claim, describing Williams as a friend of the family. Through my long working relationship with the Senator, I know otherwise.
There was a conversation that occurred at a 1996 Washington Urban League ceremony honoring myself and Senator Strom Thurmond for the growing bonds between black and white Americans. Back stage, Senator Thurmond leaned over and said, "You know, I have deep roots in the black community…deep roots." His voice softened into a raspy whisper, "You've heard the rumors."
"Are they just rumors, Senator?" I asked.
"I've had a fulfilling life," cackled Thurmond, winking salaciously.
The subject came up again while the Senator and I were attending a SC State football game in Orangeburg. He mentioned how he had arranged for Williams to attend SC State College while he was governor. (Thurmond caused a stir when his official car rolled onto the campus for a visit.) "When a man brings a child in the world, he should take care of that child," said Thurmond, who then added, "she'll never say anything and neither will you…not while I'm alive." Thurmond showed me where she lived while attending SC State and admitted to helping her out financially. Though he didn't say outright that Williams was his daughter, the Senator's remarks left little to interpret.
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