Strom Thurmond's Mixed Race Grandson Speaks Out

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, November 24, 2003.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the Back of the Book segment tonight, I have always considered the late South Carolina senator, Strom Thurmond (search), to be a villain.  He fought integration.  Should have known better.  Thurmond did that despite fathering a child with a black woman named Essie Mae Washington (search) 78 years ago.  Thurmond himself died last year at age 100, keeping his secret until the very end.

Joining us now from Seattle is Dr. Ronald Williams, the grandson of Strom Thurmond.

Dr. Williams, we appreciate you coming on.  We know this is -- has to be a pretty intense time for your whole family.  When did you realize that Strom Thurmond was your grandfather?

RONALD WILLIAMS, M.D., STROM THURMOND'S GRANDSON:  We actually were aware that he was our grandfather because we'd heard the name from early childhood.

I think the real realization for each of us individually about the significance of Strom Thurmond was as teenagers, as we began to follow the national news and some of the stories that were ongoing at the time.

O'REILLY:  OK.  Now the family kept it secret.  Why?

WILLIAMS:  Didn't see any reason to bring it out.  Basically, my mother kept it a secret because she felt that -- and I think you may have heard this already, that she felt that it would harm his career and his family, if it was brought out.  So she respected and loved him, and, for that reason, she didn't broadcast it or try to advantage that situation, and he...

O'REILLY:  Did he support -- did he support your mom and you and the family throughout the years?

WILLIAMS:  Over the years, especially after 1964 when my father passed away, on an annual basis, my mother would visit him and receive some financial help.  As far as I know, it wasn't a substantial amount, but what he did give her was very helpful to her.  But I wouldn't say he really supported us.  My mother supported us.

O'REILLY:  Well, your mother must have been -- must be -- she's still around -- an extraordinary woman.  She -- she -- you say she loved him, and yet he didn't really help black people, obviously, and he didn't really -- wasn't really overgenerous with her or you.  Another person might have said, hey, this is not a good guy.

WILLIAMS:  Well, the way our view is -- that he's provided her support, especially financial and moral support, emotional support at a time when she had no other man in her life, and she felt that was a great and important help to her, and she has acknowledged it as such.


WILLIAMS:  He apparently had some physical affection, would hug her at the beginning of a meeting, hug her when she left, and just treated her very well...


WILLIAMS:  ... and...

O'REILLY:  I got it, but I still think your mother's an extraordinary woman for doing so.  I would not...

WILLIAMS:  You're right about that.

O'REILLY:  I would -- yes, I would not have been as kind.  I wouldn't  have.

Now Strom Thurmond himself, as I said in the lead, was an ardent segregationist and, you know, arguably not a good help to the African-American community.  Did that enter into your thinking at all when you evaluate him?

WILLIAMS:  It does enter in.  One of the greatest ironies I find is that around 1964, while the Civil Rights Act was being filibustered, my brother was integrating Savannah High School.  That was quite an irony.

O'REILLY:  Yes, that's for sure.  This whole thing is ironic.


O'REILLY:  This whole -- this whole thing -- and, you know, people who don't believe in God are crazy because this just shows you, you know?  But it also shows you that Strom Thurmond was not a man of respect.  And I know that he's your grandfather and I don't want to be disrespectful to you, but he isn't.  He's a hypocrite, and that's just a fact, and I'm glad it's out in the open.

And we want to wish you and your family and your mom a very merry Christmas, and -- and we're glad that you succeeded.  You're a doctor and a good person, and at least that's some good to come out of all of this.

Do you want to take the last word on it, Doctor?

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  Yes, I think it's kind of interesting also that I'm a Republican.  I've probably been one longer than my grandfather, and I support our president and probably will vote for him again.

O'REILLY:  All right, Doctor.  Thanks very much.  Merry Christmas to you.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you.

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