Mourners Say Goodbye to Strom Thurmond

For many mourners, three days to lie in state in the Statehouse is a fitting tribute for Strom Thurmond (search), a man often remembered for his accessibility to South Carolinians.

"It's few and far between these days that there are politicians that treat you as an equal," said Teri DeBruhl, who worked on film productions in Thurmond's home as an employee at South Carolina Educational Television Network.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 mourners passed Thurmond's flag-draped casket on the second floor between the House and Senate chambers. Thurmond was a state senator in the 1930s and governor in the 1940s.

More mourners began trickling in after the Statehouse opened Monday morning. Thurmond is to lie in state until his funeral Tuesday. The casket was surrounded by a military honor guard and medals he earned during World War II were displayed nearby.

The one-time archsegregationist (search) was 100 when he died Thursday at a hospital in his hometown of Edgefield, about 60 miles from Columbia. He was the longest-serving senator in history when he left the U.S. Senate five months ago.

Thurmond's wife, Nancy, and their children, Strom Jr., Julie and Paul, greeted visitors with handshakes and smiles.

James Graham, the senator's driver in Washington for 16 years, made his second trip to the state in seven days from Maryland. His first was Monday, when he heard Thurmond's condition had worsened.

"He looked up at me and said 'James, I love you' and reached for my hand and I will treasure that as long as I live," Graham said.

All the visitors, many dressed in their Sunday best, had a story to tell about Thurmond.

Leah Sandiford, who waited more than an hour outside in the oppressive heat, said her family received a letter from the senator after the death of her grandmother, whom had sometimes cared for the Thurmonds' children.

"I just wanted to come out and give him my condolences. That's what he did when my grandmother passed away. And I thought that's the least that I could do today," she said.

Helen Dennis Bone, who came in from the South Carolina coast (search), said she worked for Thurmond as an intern and campaigned for him in the 1970s.

"There was a spirit in his office of really helping people," Bone said. She received some of that help when her mother died in Iceland and Thurmond arranged for her to get a passport immediately.

"There are so many politicians who are bigger than you are, but he was never bigger than you," Bone said.