Family Accepts Woman's Claim of Thurmond Heritage

ByABC News via logo
December 16, 2003, 10:11 AM

C O L U M B I A, S.C., Dec. 16 -- The oldest son of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond says he is ready to meet the mixed-race half-sister his father kept secret for nearly eight decades.

Strom Thurmond Jr., the U.S. attorney for South Carolina, sayshis family will not contest the claim of Essie MaeWashington-Williams, a 78-year-old retired teacher who lives in LosAngeles.

Williams announced this past weekend she was the daughter ofStrom Thurmond and a 16-year-old maid working in his father's home.

"We have no reason to believe Ms. Williams was not telling thetruth," Strom Thurmond Jr. told The (Columbia) State for a storyin today's editions.

Despite the nearly five-decade difference in their ages,Thurmond Jr. said he was looking forward to meeting the retiredschoolteacher and establishing a relationship. He plans to do thatin private.

"As far as emotions or how I feel, I feel good, because that'sa feeling you get from doing the right thing," Thurmond Jr. said.

Williams had long been rumored to be Thurmond's child, thoughshe previously denied it. She came forward now at the urging andencouragement of her children, said Frank K. Wheaton, Williams'attorney in California.

"She waited until after his passing because she had such aprofound love and respect for her father and so did he for her they both shared a mutual respect that raised the bar of integrity,as we generally know it," Wheaton said today on ABCNEWS' GoodMorning America.

Thurmond died in June at age 100.

The family doesn't know much about Williams, Thurmond Jr. said.

"I had a conversation with my dad about it about 10 years ago.I asked about this, and he didn't tell me whether she was orwhether she wasn't [his daughter]," he said. "I did not askagain."

Thurmond Jr. and the rest of the family found out about thestory shortly after attending the wedding of the former senator'syoungest son Saturday.

Thurmond Jr. and other family members would not return severalphone calls from The Associated Press.