Who Is Strom Thurmond? The Former South Carolina Senator Gets A Homie Shout-Out During The GOP Debate

The sixth GOP debate took place at the North Charleston Performing Arts in South Carolina, a venue that has continued to inspire candidates, especially because of those in attendance. Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Lindsey Graham (a former presidential hopeful) were both in the audience watching the debate unfold. One particularly prominent South Carolina politician was also evoked during the debate. Who is Strom Thurmond, the former senator and governor that John Kasich mentioned? Kasich stated that he considered Thurmond a friend, clearly aiming to garner support from South Carolina voters. Thurmond is considered somewhat a legend in his home state and some of his contributions still resonate today.

Thurmond was born in 1902 and raised in South Carolina. He even went to school there and graduated from Clemson in 1923, initially studying horticulture then serving as an educational professional. Thurmond would go on to practice law, however, then subsequently serve in World War II as an army captain. He didn't get his start in politics until returning from the war, where he was elected as the governor of his home state in 1947.

Thurmond's politics were rather conflicting and, though he paved the way for African American education rights, he was nonetheless better known for orchestrating a walkout during the 1948 DNC due to his disapproval of his own party's Civil Rights plan as well as his lengthy filibuster to block what would become the Civil Rights Act.

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The senator was vehemently against integration and even switched parties following the incident. Oddly, he would become one of the first of his contemporaries to hire a black Congressional aide and would consistently go to bat for African Americans in his home state. Thurmond holds a special designation in South Carolina as well as the entire nation, however. He was the longest-serving senator in U.S. history, having served for nearly five decades, and the longest-serving Republican in Congress.

Over the course of his political career, he helped gain African Americans the right to participate in primaries, legalized divorce in his home state, and diligently served in Congress until he turned 100. He would die shortly after in 2003. For that reason as well as his many contributions to the Palmetto State, Thurmond is still somewhat revered in South Carolina and across the Republican Party.

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Kasich very briefly touching upon Thurmond somewhat makes sense given the venue though it provided little for the Ohio governor. Social media has been especially critical of Kasich mentioning Thurmond given his anti-segregation viewpoints. For that reason, the risk of mentioning Thurmond may have outweighed the benefits.