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.