James Strom Thurmond (December 5, 1902 - June 26, 2003) was an American politician with a remarkably long career. After graduating Clemson College in 1923, he served as a public high school teacher in his native South Carolina, becoming Edgefield County Superintendent in 1929. In 1930 he was admitted to the South Carolina bar and served as a city and county attorney until 1938. In 1933 he was elected to the South Carolina State Senate as a Democrat, his first elected office; he held his seat there until 1938, then gave it up to become a circuit judge. He served in the United States Army in World War II and attained the rank of Major General in the Army Reserve. In 1947 he became Governor of South Carolina. The following year, Thurmond broke with the Democratic Party to challenge incumbent PresidentHarry Truman for the Presidency of the United States on the States Rights Democratic "Dixiecrat" Party. He came in third behind Truman and Republican Party candidate Thomas Dewey, carrying 39 electoral votes from South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and an additional electoral vote from Tennessee.
After being defeated in a Democratic Party primary battle for candidacy to the United States Senate, he temporarily left politics altogether and entered into private practice of the law until 1955. In 1954 he was elected to the Senate in a write-in campaign (making him the only person ever elected to the Senate via that technique) but did not accept the seat, stepping aside to allow Charles E. Daniel to serve. However, when Daniel resigned almost immediately, Thurmond accepted a gubernatorial appointment to the seat. He resigned in 1956 and later that year accepted another appointment to fill that vacancy. He was finally elected to the seat in a special election in 1956 and was reelected in 1960, 1966, 1972, 1978, 1984, 1990, and 1996. In 1964 he switched party affiliations and became a Republican. He served as President Pro Tempore of the Senate on three separate occasions, as the Senate's first President Pro Tempore Emeritus, and as chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Armed Services.
During a 1957 fillibuster, Thurmond spoke from the Senate rostrum for 24 hours and 18 minutes straight, reading through all 50 states' voting laws, telephone directories and even his grandmother's biscuit recipe, while his colleagues slept on cots brought in from nearby hotels. This is the record for the longest address in Senate history. Thurmond finally retired in 2002. At the time he held the record for longest-serving Senator in US history, having held the seat for 17,326 days; the record was broken by Robert Byrd of West Virginia on June 12, 2006. Thurmond turned 100 on December 5, 2002, during the lame-duck session of the 108th Congress of the United States, making him the only centenarian ever to hold an elected office on the Federal level in US history. Thurmond died shortly after leaving office, on June 26, 2003. At the time his political career had spanned fully one-third of American history.
In 1941, he was one of several speakers at a patriotic rally in Charleston to mark the beginning of the Second Great War when that city was attacked by bombers flying off the USS Remembrance as a retaliatory strike following the Confederate bombing of Philadelphia several days earlier. "Storm," who was speaking at the time, refused to leave the dais for a bomb shelter; with fine contempt for the danger he mocked the US pilots. His bravery cost much of his audience their lives, including Anne Colleton.