Essie Mae Washington Williams, Daughter Strom Thurmond Kept Secret, Dies

February 4, 2013 12:33 pm

Essie Mae Washington Williams, the daughter former Sen. Strom Thurmond kept a secret his entire life, died Monday, WLTX-TV in South Carolina reports. She was 87. 

Williams publicly disclosed the identity of her father in 2003, six months after Thurmond passed away. Thurmond, who was famous for his support of segregation and opposition to civil rights, never acknowledged his daughter, whose mother was black.

For over 60 years, the two engaged in a clandestine relationship that included financial support, birthday cards, and occasional face to face meetings–but no deep emotions. At one point, Thurmond used one of his nephews as a financial go-between, but that man was never told exactly who he was helping…


After her disclosure, Williams wrote a book: “Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond.” In it, she wrote about how he never told her he loved her, despite numerous encounters.


“As much as I wanted to ‘belong’ to him, I never felt like a daughter, only an accident,” she wrote. “Something, some strong feeling was definitely there. … That was what was drawing him to me, and me to him. But that feeling was all bottled up. We both felt it, from opposite sides of an invisible wall. It was segregated love.”

Masthead Masthead
Editor & Publisher:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Front Page Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Manager & General Counsel:
Executive Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Publishing Associate:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: