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“Black Woman Says She Is Strom Thurmond’s Daughter”


— December 13, 2003

A 78-year-old retired Los Angeles schoolteacher said she is breaking a lifetime of silence to announce that she is the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of former U.S. senator James Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), once the nation’s leading segregationist. In an interview, the woman said that Thurmond privately acknowledged her as his daughter and provided financial support since 1941.

Essie Mae Washington-Williams described her claims in a lengthy telephone interview last week, saying she protected Thurmond because of their mutual “deep respect” and her fears that disclosure would embarrass her and harm his political career. Thurmond, who died in June at age 100, said late in life through his office that Williams was a friend.

Williams, whose mother worked as a maid in the Thurmond family home as a teenager, has long been the subject of widespread speculation and has been pursued by journalists seeking her story for two decades. She always denied that she is Thurmond’s daughter.

Ms. Williams claims to have documentary proof, and is willing to undergo DNA testing. The story is on page one of today’s Washington Post.

UPDATE: Thurmond’s family now admits that the woman’s claim is true, the AP report here.


A 78-year-old retired Los Angeles schoolteacher said she is breaking a lifetime of silence to announce that she is the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of former U.S. senator James Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), once the nation’s leading segregationist. In an interview, the woman said that Thurmond privately acknowledged her as his daughter and provided financial support since 1941.

Essie Mae Washington-Williams described her claims in a lengthy telephone interview last week, saying she protected Thurmond because of their mutual “deep respect” and her fears that disclosure would embarrass her and harm his political career. Thurmond, who died in June at age 100, said late in life through his office that Williams was a friend.

Williams, whose mother worked as a maid in the Thurmond family home as a teenager, has long been the subject of widespread speculation and has been pursued by journalists seeking her story for two decades. She always denied that she is Thurmond’s daughter.

Ms. Williams claims to have documentary proof, and is willing to undergo DNA testing. The story is on page one of today’s Washington Post.

UPDATE: Thurmond’s family now admits that the woman’s claim is true, the AP report here.

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