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June 2, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Strom Thurmond, Carrie Butler, and Us
Kristi from Hoopa, CA writes:
12/19/2003 10:43:21 AM
The racial component can only not be a component for white folks. Carrie's life, and Essie Mae's, were defined by this "component." I think I understand the point you're trying to make but I I still think it falls in the category of apologia. Personal ethical action resides somewhere beyond the scope of history and the then acceptable norms of action. It was once an acceptable norm to own slaves; it was once an acceptable norm to "practice" one's sexuality on young black women, because to do so with a sixteen year old white girl would have been quite inconceivable, unless of course she were poor, powerless, and readily subject to "victimization" by social norms; perhaps class is as much an issue as race. In the end, it amounts to the same thing: a young, vulnerable woman, was subjected to life decisions and consequences she largely bore alone, by the actions of an adult male fully empowered by society. Then the adult male ignored his responsibilities for many years, and lied about them for many more. We still have no idea what the outcome was for the rest of Carrie's life.


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Jonathan from Greenville writes:
12/18/2003 1:42:31 PM
Our society's future looks bright with such progressive ideals to which Mike wishes to lead us :-)

I'm out of here. Got to get ready to head out of town. Behave now - you hear?
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W. Andrew from Greenville writes:
12/18/2003 1:36:46 PM

Your may be right...statutory rape is not my area of practice.


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Mike from Greenville writes:
12/18/2003 1:34:39 PM
It is amusing to bring up the sex out of wedlock issue now which is actually a 1940s sexual issue.

Sex out of wedlock is common now and should be. It is a basic part of a relationship be you a gay or hetero adult.

Over all the years of human existence, religious institutions have tried to make marriage a prerequisite to sex and have failed miserably.


Because people have been smarter than their false institutions.

The Strom issue is not about "illicit" sex because "illicit sex" is common.

What's uncommon is a dixiecrat segregationist who wanted to be president based on racism was actually integrating the races on a very personal level.

For anyone to try and bring up a quaint out of wedlock sex issue about this despicable hypocrite is,well,quaint and totally laughable.

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Randy from Laurens writes:
12/18/2003 12:47:04 PM
Good point. In 1925 Strom Thurmond probably felt ashamed for fathering a child out of wedlock. There was still shame associated with that activity then.

Today, fathering a child out of wedlock no longer raises an eyebrow. It may be devastating to the child but it's okay with society.

Today, all we want to know are the colors involved.

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Randy from Laurens writes:
12/18/2003 12:44:46 PM

Are you really sure about that? A sixteen year old and an eighteen year old engaging in sex would be illegal?

You're an attorney and I'm not but I think you're wrong about that.

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Randy from Laurens writes:
12/18/2003 12:42:40 PM

The age of consent in South Carolina today for a young lady to decide on her own whether to engage in sexual relations is 16. I believe that was the age of Carrie Butler at the time. I'm not disagreeing with all that you say, I'm just pointing out that when you judge only by "today's law" Ms Butler was of the age of consent.

I agree that Strom's actions at the age of 22 is not an example that should be followed. I have a 20 year old son. I don't want him to follow Strom's example. If the story of Strom Thurmond had ended right there it would have been a sad story.

But, there was more to the story and more to the man. Perhaps I have an advantage here. I know several individuals who were brought into this world under the same circumstances as Essie Mae Washington-William.....the product of a relationship between a rich white man and a poor black woman. And, Kristi, none of these folk were supported and encouraged in their lives as Mrs Williams was. Most knew who their father was but never met him. It was a shame on the South to have such men of "honor" about.

But Strom did try in some admittedly feeble ways to be a father. That part of the man's heart I do respect.

The example of Mrs Williams from what I can see and know is one of sterling character. She has provided all of us with the opportunity to be honest with ourselves about race and to see things through her eyes and with her spirit. That is the opportunity and the challenge.

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Jonathan from Greenville writes:
12/18/2003 12:23:42 PM
Again, I go a step further - it is the illicit nature to which I object. Even though according to the laws of that time Strom was "in bounds" on the consent issue, I find myself more in agreement with you - though it would still bother me if she had been two years older than he at the time.

I find our responses to this interesting, not that I trying argue with people, but because of the way we judge people for actions in the 40s with our sensibilities of today. In some ways, the race issue for instance, our sensibilites are more morally sensitive. In other ways, our views of illicit sex for example, are more morally jaded - or should I say more "progressive" :-)
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W. Andrew from Greenville writes:
12/18/2003 11:35:05 AM
Jonathan...my objection to Strom's affair was not even the race component, but the age of his "companion." Our current ideas about consent is that a 16 year old can not engage in consensual sex with an adult. The difference in age and power are pertinent to any true analysis of what this says about ole Strom.
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Jonathan from Greenville writes:
12/18/2003 10:57:57 AM
Whatever, Kristi. You missed the point. I'm not excusing or ignoring the racial aspect. How can I? It seems to be all you can read now. I was commenting on our responses to the issue - and I might add I presented both sides. Strom was wrong. Period. However, I do think there is something to be learned about ourselves in the way we respond to "facts" that we don't know. Your post here is an example.
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Kristi from Hoopa, CA writes:
12/18/2003 10:43:39 AM
This would be an entirely ludicrous editorial save for the last parapgraph. Essie Mae is an example to follow. Strom Thurmond is not. Not only did he have sex with a minor, by today's law a criminal act, but for all we know it was forcible rape, not an unheard of event in those times. I hope not. Why did Strom ignore the child until she was 16? Why did Strom, and his family, do nothing when the child was placed with a maternal aunt because of the mother's extreme poverty? Did Strom's family fire her or run her out of their home and her job when they discovered she was pregnant? There's a lot about this story that is very ugly; it's the story of our past and the institutional racism of our country that twisted and subverted normal human relations into the power to abandon, reject, avoid and lie....and still have people defend you after the fact. Why the apologia for the racial issues in this case? Strom was a classic, customary, southern male thug who took advantage of his position, class and power and ruined a young girl's life: Carrie Butler. Where is she in this? What happened to her after she got pregnant by the good ol' boy? Shame on Strom Thurmond and his family, not for begetting a child out of wedlock - there is no shame on the child or the mother - but for trying their level best to forget them both for 16 years, and then publicly denying them for 70 years.
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Jonathan from Greenville writes:
12/18/2003 9:56:02 AM
Not an excuse for Thurmond. My bar for the man seems to be higher than yours. I think he was wrong for his actions regardless of the race of the girl. Certainly, he was wrong for taking advantage of Carrie Butler. However, he would have been wrong to do so regardless of the color of her skin.

I'm not saying that race isn't an issue in all of this, I'm simply trying to point out that it isn't the ONLY issue in this matter. We hear enough about the racial component. I want to point out the other aspect. Understanding the view of illegitimacy in conjunction with the racial tension during those days goes a long way toward explaining why they acted the way they did through the years.

It doesn't excuse him in the least. My point is simply, would there be the same outcry had Carrie been white? No. However, I think it should be.

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Mike from Greenville writes:
12/18/2003 9:42:21 AM

When you say that the race issue "sidetracks us" that is an excuse.

It is all about race since Strom supported segregation but privately indulged in race relations - if you know what I mean.

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Mike from Greenville writes:
12/18/2003 9:23:39 AM
Let's see.

You respect a guy who didn't want his own daughter to use the public pools or schools with his "white" family.

You southern folk do like to excuse your racist heroes.

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Randy from Laurens writes:
12/18/2003 12:13:46 AM
You go ahead and condemn Ol' Strom Mikey. Not me. In fact, after hearing some of the words of his daughter tonight I respect the man more than I did before this was publicly confirmed.

It was funny hearing some reporters talk about how he fought all his life to keep her a secret. Yeah, when you're desperate to keep something like this secret and you're the Governor of South Carolina what you do is have your driver take you down to Orangeburg to SC State and have the college president summon the one girl you're trying to hide to his office for a visit.

If he was ashamed of her and trying to hide her Ol' Strom just weren't too bright about it. I'm glad he was in Airborne and not OSS.

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Randy from Laurens writes:
12/18/2003 12:09:07 AM
Good column.

It is funny isn't it? We all sit around and debate about the relationship between a 22 year old and a 16 year old from almost 80 years ago. I suppose we think we can actually figure out what was in their minds.

I will say this about Strom's oldest daughter. She has come through her experience with a spirit of peace and an almost palpable forgiveness for any wrong, perception or reality, that was done to her. Her example is one to follow.

Strom told Armstrong Williams that he was very proud of her. I can see why. The indomitable, dignified, feisty spirit of Strom Thurmond may or may not have found its way into some of his white children. But that black kid of his......she's the real deal.

God bless her.

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Jonathan from Greenville writes:
12/17/2003 10:11:43 PM
Let's see . . . did I make any excuses? I don't think so. Mike simply makes my point.
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Mike from Greenville writes:
12/17/2003 10:02:30 PM
Yes, Essie Mae has more dignity than Strom.

She has risen about the slights from daddy Strom as he did not put her name as one of his children on his statehouse monument.

He did not acknowledge her publicly as his daughter.

He did not include her in his will.

The monument, public acknowledgement, and the will are issues of today.

Strom's legacy is an issue today.

That is why it is appropriate to condemn this hypocrite today since he has been honored and respected up to this day.

Jonathan can make all the excuses he wants about Strom but it is the same type of rationalizations that allowed Strom to extend his political career which at its core was corrupt.

Strom's name should be stricken from all schools and monuments for his despicable actions.

Did he not have any shame to get up and speak about excluding blacks from our public lives when he indulged himself privately?

When his public policies would have excluded his own daughter?

Strom is no man of honor to honor. He needs to be condemned by anyone who respects the dignity of Essie Mae.

[ reply ]
James from Bennettsville writes:
12/17/2003 5:58:36 PM
Well said Jonathan.We are so race conscience that is the only thing that matters. Old Strom and his name isnt the only hypocrites involved these discussions.
I would very much suppose if old Strom had a conscience and I think he did he paid for this most of his life with guilt, of course I could be wrong. But until we walk in his shoes we will never know.
I also wonder what would happen if all of us went back with DNA testing and found out about our real backgrounds,needless to say some of us probably would be in for a shock.
If Mrs. Williams says it needs to be addressed it certainly should. But reading your article and what is in front of us daily we sure have enough things acceptable today that will cause all of our future relatives to condemn us and maybe drag us through the mud in years to come.The old saying of casting the first stone will come home to haunt us and I am affraid I myself could be hit pretty damn hard.That is why I want mercy not justice.
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