Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the biracial daughter of one-time segregationist Strom Thurmond, who he kept secret for more than 70 years, dies at age 87. According to a notice from Leevy’s Funeral Home, Ms. Washington-Williams was living in Irmo, SC, at the time of her death.
It was not until 2003, after the death of the U.S. senator of 48 years, that Washington-Williams revealed that Thurmond was her father.
At the time, the Thurmond family said the senator never had mentioned his first-born child, but they swiftly acknowledged her claim. Washington-Williams first came forward to reveal her father in 2003 in an interview with The Washington Post.
A week later, the retired Los Angeles school teacher told her story at a news conference in Columbia, saying, “At last, I feel completely free.”
Washington-Williams said her mother Carrie Butler was a maid working for the Thurmond family. She said she met her father for the first time at 16. Washington-Williams was raised by her aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania.
After high school, Washington-Williams enrolled in the then-S.C. State College in Orangeburg on Thurmond’s recommendation. Thurmond, the governor of South Carolina, kept in touch with her, visiting her on occasion and providing financial support, she said in 2003. Source
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