“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.