Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the lovechild of Senator Strom Thurmond and his former black maid, has passed away at age 87. Washington-Williams kept her father’s secret for 70 years. She revealed his identity after Thurmond died in 2003. The former South Carolina governor was a known segregationist and the longest serving senator in U.S. history.
Essie Mae Washington-Williams was a retired educator who was raised by her mother, Carrie Butler, until Butler died at age 38. She was sent to her aunt and uncle, Mr. John and Mary Washington, in Coatesville, Pa. The young mixed-race child didn’t even know that her mother was Carrie Butler until the age of 13. She was later told that she was of mixed-race and that her white father was Strom Thurmond.
Thurmond was in his 20’s when he became close to Carrie Butler, who was a young teenager, working as the household maid. Upon learning that his daughter knew of his identity, Thurmond met with Washington-Williams and sent her $200. Although her father’s identity was not publicly known, Thurmond continued to contribute to his daughter financially and met with her in secret over his lifetime. However, in 1948, the same year that Carrie Butler passed away, Strom Thurmond built his segregationist political platform, denouncing integration of the black and white community.
Washington-Williams says that those who worked in the Thurmond home knew of her existence and family lineage. Even though Thurmond helped her with occasional finances, met with her at her HBCU, and sent a letter of recommendation for her son to attend medical school, he barely acknowledged a Father’s Day card.
During a news conference on Dec. 17, 2003, Washington-Williams revealed her father’s identity. She claimed to have waited until after his death to spare his family and political career. She also wanted her own children to know their family lineage.
Washington-Williams was well educated, receiving a bachelor’s degree from USC and an honorary Doctorate from South Carolina State University. Once her secret was revealed, her name was added to a monument at the South Carolina State House listing the children of Strom Thurmond. Washington-Williams chronicled her story in the book entitled, “Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond”, which was published in 2005.
Essie Mae Washington-Williams was laid to rest at the Brookland Baptist Church on Saturday, February 9, 2013.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
1 of 25
2 of 25
3 of 25
4 of 25
5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
5 of 25
6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
6 of 25
7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
7 of 25
8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
8 of 25
9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
9 of 25
10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
10 of 25
11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
11 of 25
12. Late nights mornings
12 of 25
13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
13 of 25
14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
14 of 25
15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
15 of 25
16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
16 of 25
17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
17 of 25
18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
18 of 25
19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
19 of 25
20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
20 of 25
21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
21 of 25
22. Claudia Jordan: ....
22 of 25
23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
23 of 25
24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
24 of 25
25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
25 of 25