For seven decades, Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina secretly supported a mixed-race daughter, says The State newspaper of Columbia, S.C.
Essie Mae Washington Williams, born in 1925, was the child of Thurmond, then 22, and Carrie Butler, a 16-year-old maid in the Thurmond home.
Thurmond died in June at age 100. His estate is in probate. His family now acknowledges that the senator made cash support payments to the illicit daughter for most of his life.
Now 78, Essie Mae was to appear at a press conference Wednesday in Columbia. Her story was to be told Wednesday night on the CBS program “60 Minutes II.”
The woman said she does not plan to challenge Thurmond's will, which left about $200,000 to family, faithful aides and favorite institutions. The rest was divided into trusts before his death.
The State says Thurmond was perhaps the last century's most noted segregationist, and that hypocrisy makes the story noteworthy.
The paper quoted one observer saying, “Thurmond was a segregationist politically but an integrationist sexually.”
Washington Williams tells her story today in a Los Angeles Times commentary. She writes:
“Thousands and thousands of black people born in the South…could tell my story. Many have made a big deal about Sally Hemings and her lover, Thomas Jefferson – an example of common practice during slavery. But what makes her special and what makes me special is not that we had white men in our lives, but who those white men were in American history.”