A LOOK BACK: Essie Mae Washington-Williams

February 7th, 2013, by

“I am Essie Mae Washington-Williams, and at last I am completely free.” Those were the words used at the 2003 news conference at which Washington-Williams revealed her secret of being the mixed-race daughter of onetime segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Born in 1925 after Thurmond, then 22, had an affair with a 16-year-old Black maid who worked in his family’s Edgefield, SC, home, she kept in touch with her famous father, even though he never publicly acknowledged her.

Washington-Williams passed away February 4, 2013 in Columbia, SC at age 87.

She sat down with us twice: In our inaugural 2004 season, shortly after her riveting press conference, and again in 2005, to talk about her then-new autobiography, Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond. Read the transcripts of our engaging conversations here.

  • Erica Lewis

    I remember back in 2003, when Essie Mae Washington-Williams came forward to the press that she is the daughter of a segregationist senator, Strom Thurmond, has kept it a secret until she came out of the shadows, from her late father. Not a shocking words through the grapevine. But that secret had comes out, to hear the true story about a man’s love child, he denied his own but loved and cared for her through the years.

Last modified: February 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm