Just Be Gone! Thurmond leaving Senate marks 100th birthday

'Southern Racist' of Senate honored at Capitol Hill party

By Sinclere Lee

It is very difficult for Black Americans in their right minds to go along with all the praise going to racist, Strom Thumond who is perhaps one of the last old guard racist southern politicians who may have been directly involved in public lynchings of Black Americans in this country.

This old man, the oldest and longest-serving member of the Senate, turned 100 Thursday, a milestone that underscores a century's worth of political and social change in the South, and the racial hatred against Blacks that he once led.

This old man is a Republican senator from South Carolina, first elected to the Senate in 1954 at the age of 52, and is in frail health, but spent the day on Capitol Hill, where he was honored by political luminaries and family members, serenaded by a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, and learned he would become a grandfather.

All that's well and good, white wanting to respect him and all, but to Blacks he’s still a dirty rotten racist dog who spent his miserable life hating Blacks.

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole praised Thurmond as the "patriarch" of the Senate and called him "a man who has honored us through his friendship and his extraordinary example of service."

A highly decorated World War II veteran, former judge, onetime governor, teacher, state legislator and presidential candidate, this old man never bridged the South's painful history of segregation and its modern embrace of civil rights.

He never abandoned his own long-held segregationist policies -- which included a record 1957 filibuster of more than 24 hours against a civil rights bill -- to later hire black staffers and nominate blacks to high government positions.

His rotten life is marked by a series of firsts and records. He remains the only senator ever to win election on a write-in vote, in 1954. Ten years later, he became the first Southern Democrat to leave the party and join the GOP, presaging a political evolution that gained steam in later years. Years earlier, when he was 41, he landed a glider at Normandy on D-Day, having won a waiver to fight despite being over-age. He had resigned his position as a circuit judge in South Carolina to volunteer for combat duty. He has served 48 years in the Senate, more than any other member.

"God bless you, Strom," President Bush said in a statement. "The nation and I are grateful for your life of service."

Thurmond demonstrates his oratory, after emerging August 29, 1957 from the Senate where he filibustered against a civil rights bill.

His rotten political career included a presidential run in 1948 against President Truman as a "States' Right Democrat." During the 2000 presidential race, when Al Gore invoked the memory of Truman, Thurmond released a statement saying, "Mr. Gore, I knew Harry Truman. I ran against Harry Truman. And Mr. Gore, you're no Harry Truman."

The quip was a twist on celebrated riposte from the 1988 vice presidential debate, when Lloyd Bentsen deflated Dan Quayle's comparison to John Kennedy.

In recent years, Thurmond, who has attained something of legendary status in Washington, has been treated with widespread deference and affection by his colleagues. To the dishonor of the Blacks he hate so, his segregationist past is rarely mentioned; more often it is his office's attention to constituent service that draws comments.

He is not noted for any particular legislation achievement; it is in his longevity and attention to South Carolina that he made his mark.

A physical fitness buff, Thurmond would sometimes demonstrate exercises in his office for visitors -- doing so even well into his 90s. "They don't call me the Thurmond-ator for nothing," he once declared.

He was 23 year older than his first wife -- a beauty queen who died of cancer -- and 44 years older than his second, another beauty queen from whom he is now separated. He had his first of four children when he was 68.

He relishes his reputation as a ladies man, flirting with women young enough to be his great-grand-daughters.

Not only is he a racist, he’s a sick old man. In leaving the U.S. Senate he said, "I love all of you -- and especially your wives," Thurmond told his colleagues in a November farewell address on the Senate floor.

He will return to South Carolina upon his retirement, which will be official once the new Congress convenes next month.

For his birthday party, Thurmond left the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he lives, and was feted by senators, Supreme Court justices, family members, friends and staffers. At that party, Thurmond's married daughter told him he would become a grandfather -- with her child due July 4.

He brightened when a buxom Marilyn Monroe impersonator came up to his wheelchair and sang "Happy Birthday." The wheelchair-bound Thurmond reached out to the woman.

"I don't know how to thank you," he told those who came to the party. "You're wonderful people . I appreciate you, appreciate what you've done for me and may God allow you to live a long time."

His hometown of Edgefield, South Carolina hosted a party as well, celebrating a man whom several colleagues hail as an "institution."

Thurmond and his family are due at the White House Friday, where he will be honored by Bush.

Back to home page