Thurmond, J. Strom

Thurmond, J. (James) Strom

(1902–  ) U.S. senator; born in Edgefield, S.C. A teacher and superintendent of education before turning to the law, he was judge of the state's circuit court (1938–42). Volunteering for service with the U.S. Army in World War II (1942–45), he returned and served as governor of South Carolina (Dem., 1947–51). Although relatively progressive as a governor, especially in matters of education—even for African-Americans—he was staunchly opposed to the civil rights program of the Democrats in 1948; at that year's convention he led the walkout of the Southern Democrats and ran as presidential candidate of the State's Rights Democratic Party or "Dixiecrats." Originally appointed a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 1954, he was elected on his own in 1956; switching to the Republican Party in 1964, he continued to be reelected and became a prominent force in the emergence of a conservative Republican Party in the South.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.