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Thurmond's daughter accepts heritage

Thurmond's daughter speaks
Senator's kin accepts 'claim to her heritage'

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

COLUMBIA -- The daughter of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond and his family's 16-year-old black maid returned to her native South Carolina to reconcile the past.

At a news conference here Wednesday, Essie Mae Washington-Williams spoke publicly for the first time about her segregationist father and what's been called the state's worst-kept secret.

"There are many stories like Sally Hemings' and mine," she said, referring to President Thomas Jefferson's slave paramour. "I know there are thousands of people out there with relationships of this type."

Dressed in a red suit, Williams was accompanied by her daughter Wanda Terry, 49, and grandson Jason Terry, both of Los Angeles, as she addressed 200 journalists and a curious public in the grand ballroom of the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Columbia.

"My mother, who is now deceased, was named Carrie Butler and worked for the Thurmond family," Williams said. "I was born in Aiken on October 12, 1924. My father's name was James Strom Thurmond."

Williams said she was 6 months old when an aunt and uncle adopted her and took her to Coatesville, Pa. Her first recollection of her mother was at age 13, when she went to visit her. But Williams said she does not know any details about Butler's relationship with Thurmond.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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