Born December 5, 1902, Edgefield, SC. Died June 26, 2003, Edgefield, SC.
Strom Thurmond's birth predates the Wright brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk and Henry Ford's Model T. Among other accomplishments, Thurmond earned an undergraduate degree in horticulture from Clemson, fought in WWII, passed the South Carolina bar, served as an appellate judge, and was elected as governor of South Carolina.
After winning his U.S. Senate seat in 1954, Senator Thurmond unabashedly established himself as a staunch opponent of civil rights. His Declaration of Constitutional Principles sought to undermine the Supreme Court's recent civil rights mandates, claiming they were unconstitutional. Only three southern senators dared to oppose Thurmond's "Southern Manifesto": Estes Kefauver (D-TN), Albert Gore, Sr. (D-TN), and Lyndon Johnson (D-TX). Senator Thurmond also fought bitterly to thwart the passage of HR 6127, the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The filibuster he delivered on August 28, 1957 in opposition to that bill lasted for more than 24 straight hours, with only a few brief breaks in all. He would have gone on even longer had a doctor not stopped Thurmond out of concern for his kidneys. Fortunately, the bill passed anyway, and Senator Thurmond didn't hurt himself in the process. Thurmond ultimately changed his mind about desegregation and civil rights, but in the 1940s and 1950s, he fought against racial justice and equality with an intensity matched by few.
As for the trophy wives, they were both beauty queens in their early twenties: the first Miss South Carolina was 23 years younger than him, and the second was 44 years younger.
Senator Thurmond finally retired from politics at age 100 in 2003, and died a few months later. In December 2003, a 78-year-old woman named Essie Mae Washington-Williams publicly revealed that she was the illegitimate daughter of the late Strom Thurmond and an African-American maid who worked for Thurmond's parents and was 16 at the time. Thurmond didn't have his other child, Strom Jr., until he was 70 years old.