(43.) STROM THURMOND (1902-2003)
Defeated by Harry Truman/Alben Barkley, 1948

Strom Thurmond was born 1902 in Edgefield, South Carolina. He graduated from Clemson University in 1923 and began his political career as the Edgefield superintendent of education in 1929. After stints in the state legislature and on the U.S. Court of Appeals, he served in the army during World War II. Shortly after his return from service in Europe he was elected governor of South Carolina in 1946. When the Democratic National Convention adopted a strong civil rights plan in its campaign platform in 1948, Thurmond reacted by running for president on a separate States Rights Democratic Party ticket (Dixiecrat), but was defeated by Harry S. Truman.

In 1964 Thurmond bolted from the Democratic Party and was influential in South Carolina’s swing into the Republican presidential column for the first time since 1976. After persuading several key southern delegates to remain loyal to President Nixon in 1968, Thurmond’s influence waned, although he retained his popularity in South Carolina.

In 1957 Thurmond set a record by filibustering for more than 24 hours against a civil rights bill. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, however, when blacks first began voting in significant number in South Carolina, Thurmond became the first southern senator to hire black staff members.