- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

Sen. Strom Thurmond's retirement marks the end of one of the most remarkable political careers in American history a segregationist who managed to win over minority voters; a die-hard Democrat who nearly tore the party apart and retired as the most senior Republican in Washington; and a ruthless fighter who made peace with his bitter rivals in the Senate.
The South Carolina Republican was born into a world in which cars were rare, airplanes unknown, spaceflight a fantasy, and the United States didn't want any part of international politics.
He outlived the Soviet Union, the League of Nations, and Jim Crow segregation laws, and as he approaches his 100th birthday in December and retirement from the Senate, he has witnessed nearly half of this country's history. And when Mr. Thurmond was first elected as a write-in candidate in 1954, many of his current Senate colleagues had yet to be born.
"From the moment Strom Thurmond set foot in this chamber in 1954, he has been setting records," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said that Mr. Thurmond, who has been dubbed the "centennial senator" has a "fierce determination to do what he regards as the right thing for the people of his beloved South Carolina."
A true Southern gentleman, Mr. Thurmond is the oldest person to serve in the Senate and the longest-serving senator, having cast more than 15,000 votes. Mr. Daschle called him "an institution within an institution."
"While Senator Thurmond and I often reach different conclusions and cast different votes, I admire his devotion to his state, to our nation, and to this Senate," Mr. Daschle said.
Mr. Thurmond began his political career as a Democrat but switched his party affiliation to Republican in 1964. He has been a senior member of both parties. In addition to his 48 years of service in the Senate, Mr. Thurmond ran for president under a third party the States Rights party also known as Dixiecrats, and carried four states. He holds the record for the longest filibuster 24 hours and 18 minutes against the 1957 Civil Rights Act.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, called Mr. Thurmond "a nation's treasure."
"When I was seven years old, Sen. Thurmond was already running for president," Mr. Lott said. "It is not enough to say Senator Strom Thurmond has lived his life well, it has been an extraordinary life."
"He has seen the defeat of Nazism, the collapse of communism, and the bringing down of the Iron Curtain. He has been an important part of making all of that possible," Mr. Lott said.
At age 80, Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, is the body's current longest-serving junior senator. "I think he is the living example that the best politics is no politics," Mr. Hollings said.
A product of the Old South, Mr. Thurmond emerged to become a leader of the New South and is legendary for providing outstanding constituent services.
At the beginning of World War II, Mr. Thurmond stepped down as a judge and volunteered to serve his country. He began setting age records on D-Day when he landed behind German lines in a glider as part of the invasion of Normandy at age 42, he was the oldest person to do so.
"Strom Thurmond has never forgotten the responsibility of the 82nd Airborne to be America's guard, and to go all the way in protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform and our nation's veterans," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.
In this age of political correctness led by feminist groups, Mr. Thurmond has remained unintimidated and remains a notorious flirt, and his career outlasted that of Sen. Robert Packwood, Oregon Republican, who resigned in 1995 after being accused of making unwanted sexual advances.
Mr. Thurmond invites female staffers and even members of the news media to sit in his lap as he is shuttled about by wheelchair, and his trademark thank you to colleagues is: "I love you all, especially your wives."
"I think the record ought to be made here that for Strom Thurmond, all women are beautiful," Mr. Hollings said.
In the Sept. 29, 1997, issue of the New Yorker, Sally Quinn recalled a Washington dinner party she and her mother attended.
"As we were reaching for the shrimp, both of us jumped and let out a shriek. Sen. Strom Thurmond, grinning from ear to ear, had one hand on my behind and the other on my mother's. As I recall, we were both quite flattered, and thought it terribly funny and wicked of ol' Strom."
Mr. Thurmond first married a 21-year-old woman when he was a 44-year-old governor. Widowed at age 67, he took an older second wife. She was 22. The couple separated in 1991 but have not divorced.


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