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Public Statements

Strom Thurmond

Location: Washington, DC


    Mr. GRAHAM of South Carolina. Mr. President, I rise to make a brief statement, like my colleague from South Carolina, Senator Hollings, about the passing of Senator Thurmond. This is something I really don't know how to put in words. All of us from South Carolina knew Senator Thurmond in so many ways. But his colleagues in this body, the vast majority of you, have served with him for many years. You have great admiration and fondness for Senator Thurmond but I stand before you as his successor. I often state back home that we change Senators every 50 years and that so many people have been waiting to take Senator Thurmond's place. The jokes just go on and on about what a rich life he has lived.

    Tonight his family is mourning his passing. Whether a person lives to be 100 or 200, it is difficult to lose your father. If you lose someone you love, it is always difficult. But when you think about Senator Thurmond, you always have a smile on your face.

    He lived a rich life. He lived at times a controversial life. But the biggest testament I can give to Senator Thurmond is that he changed. He changed with the times.

    Those of you who embraced him during difficult times your love was much appreciated. Recently people have tried to freeze Senator Thurmond in time which is unfair to him or anyone else. Those who knew him best understood that he changed with the times. And his legacy in my State across party lines, across racial lines, and across regional lines was that he was the go-to guy. If you had a problem with your family or with your business, the first thought in your mind, if the Government was involved, or if somebody was treating you unfairly, was get on the phone and call Senator Thurmond. You would get a phone call back, and he would go to bat for you. Whether you owned the company, or you were the janitor, whether you were black, white, rich or poor, his office and he as a person had a reputation of going to bat for individuals. To me, that is his greatest legacy.

    I stand before you as his successor—but not only that, as his friend. He embraced my campaign in 1995. He came to campaign for me when he was 93 years of age. And I was worried to death about if he could make it through the day. Three days later I was glad to see him leave because he about killed me.

    He had enthusiasm and passion like no one I have ever met in my life. He did things he didn't have to do. He was a sitting judge in South Carolina in his 40s. He left the judgeship to go volunteer for the Army. He landed in a glider on D-Day, he was shot up, the pilot was killed, and he fought the Germans until they quit, and then he went over to Japan and fought until they quit.

    This man, your friend, my friend, South Carolina's favorite son, is gone but he will never be forgotten. His biggest legacy is in the small things he did—not the large things he did. There are so many large things he accomplished. But he lives on in families. Great relationships were established, and good constituent service. He won his last election by getting more African-American votes than any Republican in the South.

    All I can say about Senator Thurmond is that we pray for his family, we mourn his loss, but we thank God that He provided us a great public servant.

    Well done, Senator Thurmond.

    Thank you, Mr. President.

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