- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2001


Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the nation's longest-serving senator, collapsed today on the Senate floor. But a few minutes later the 98-year-old Republican was described as standing and talking.

A Capitol guard, who refused to allow his name to be used, told reporters after the chamber had been cleared that Mr. Thurmond was conscious and standing. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., also told reporters that Mr. Thurmond was "standing and talking and seemed OK."

The Senate recessed about 10:35 a.m. EDT, immediately after Mr. Thurmond collapsed. When it resumed business at 10:50 a.m., Mr. Thurmond was not in the chamber.

When Mr. Thurmond collapsed, most Republicans were in a closed-door senators' meeting a few paces down the hall from the Senate chamber.

Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a heart surgeon, immediately left the meeting and ran to Mr. Thurmond's aid. When he got there, Mr. Thurmond was lying in the aisle near his desk at the front of the chamber with three people surrounding him.

Capitol police then clamped an extraordinary ring of security around the Senate chamber, the corridors outside and even the parking lot outside the Capitol.

Mr. Thurmond, born in December 1902, is legendary for both his political and physical endurance. He was first elected to the Senate in 1954. A one-time Democratic segregationist, he holds the record for a solo Senate filibuster. He has gradually scaled back his duties in recent years as his health declined.

In 1996, at the age of 93, he became the oldest person ever to serve in Congress, and the following year, became the longest-serving member.

When Republicans controlled the Senate from 1981-87, Thurmond was at the peak of his power. He was both chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and, as the longest-serving member of the majority party, also president pro tem, a chiefly ceremonial job that made him third in line to succeed the president.

When the Republicans regained a majority in 1995, Mr. Thurmond again was president pro tem and became chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he pushed for increased military spending.

He stepped aside as chairman two years later as age began to take its toll. When Democrats regained control of the Senate earliers this year, he also turned over the title of president pro tem to Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

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