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Farewell, Strom
June 21, 2001
by Birdman

Now that the Democrats have taken control of the Senate it’s rumored that aged, ailing Strom Thurmond may resign his seat as early as July.

Strom Thurmond was born on December 5, 1902. Mark Twain, Henry James and Bram Stoker were all still writing when the old segregationist was born.

When Strom first became Governor of South Carolina he was regarded as something of a progressive. Now of course a progressive South Carolina politician in those days was one who thought that a lynching victim should be cut down from the tree lest they become a public health hazard; a conservative South Carolinian, of course, felt that leaving them up served as a deterrent against blacks getting uppity. Strom even suggested in one of his first speeches as governor that the state should spend more educating its Negro children. Of course that didn’t mean they should get anywhere near the schools that white children attended.

Remember Max Schmeling, the German heavyweight champion. He had two memorable fights with Joe Louis in the thirties. Max is still with us but Strom’s older than he is.

Strom left the Democratic Party twice. The first time was in 1948 when Strom was furious about the fact that President Truman had advanced the totally un-American notion that black and white Americans could serve in the Army on an equal basis. Even worse at their convention that year the party endorsed a (gasp) civil rights plank in the party platform that was so radical that the KKK could probably support it today. Strom led a walkout and ran for president as a Dixiecrat vowing to show the party that they couldn’t win without Strom and others like him. Oops, Truman won anyway and Strom and his buddies had to come crawling back.

How about Lou Gehrig. Sixty-two years ago he made his famous “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech as he retired from his baseball career. If the Iron Horse was still around he’d be younger than Strom.

The second time Strom left the party was in 1964 in the wake of the landmark civil rights act of that year. Strom and the segregationists fought it like mad. They made speeches about states rights, they filibustered, they talked about how evil bureaucrats in D.C. were oppressing them, and they still lost. But the GOP presidential candidate that year voted against it. A “B movie” actor late in the campaign made a speech comparing the leadership of the Democrats to Marx, Lenin and Stalin. The GOP, weary of looking for people who wanted to repeal the New Deal decided that bigots votes counted just as much as country club votes and rolled out the red carpet for the Stroms of the world.

We can do the age thing by category. Let’s do gangsters. The following would all be younger than Strom had they not run afoul of the bullets of law enforcement officials or other gangsters – Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bugsy Siegel. There is a question about John Dillinger – he has two listed birthdays, June 22,1902 (before Strom) and June 22, 1903 (after Strom).

Strom’s 28 year old son is trying for an appointment as U.S. attorney for South Carolina . Do the math – 28, honest. He may be an old Confederate Flag waving redneck but I must admit I’m impressed (and he didn’t need no stinkin’ Viagra, Bob Dole).

Leopold and Loeb – the two guys with the genius IQs who tried to commit the “perfect crime” by murdering a teenager in 1924 and were saved from execution by the defense of Clarence Darrow? You guessed it; younger than Strom.

Nowadays the old White Citizens Council has to go by the somewhat more respectable title of Council of Conservative Citizens and low-lifes like Trent Lott and Bob Barr are forced to downplay their association with them. Strom is the last vestige of something ugly and rotten in U.S. history – the segregationist South, where white politicians could blatantly say that they intended to keep the black man under the thumb of the white man – forever.


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