Archive for Monday, June 30, 2003

Mourners pay respects at Thurmond memorial

June 30, 2003

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— Hundreds of people lined up in oppressive heat Sunday at the South Carolina Statehouse to pay respects to Strom Thurmond, lying in state in a flag-draped casket, his World War II medals nearby.

The one-time arch segregationist 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.

Many of the people at the Statehouse wore their Sunday best, and all had a story to tell about Thurmond.

Eva Baughman said when her husband faced a military transfer in the middle of the school year in 1990, Thurmond intervened and the transfer was postponed a few months.

"It didn't mean that much to the people receiving my husband, but to the children it meant a whole lot not to be uprooted in the middle of the school year," said Baughman, who drove some 100 miles to the Statehouse.

Leah Sandiford, who waited more than an hour outside, said her family received a letter from the senator after the death of her grandmother, who 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.

Thurmond's flag-draped casket was on the second floor between the House and Senate chambers. Thurmond was a member of the state Senate in the 1930s. He was governor of South Carolina in the 1940s.

His casket was surrounded by a military honor guard, and the medals he earned during World War II were displayed nearby.

The body of former Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., lies in state in
the rotunda of the South Carolina Statehouse surrounded by members
of the Army and Air National Guard in Columbia, S.C. Sunday's
service honored the longest-serving U.S. senator in history.

The body of former Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., lies in state in the rotunda of the South Carolina Statehouse surrounded by members of the Army and Air National Guard in Columbia, S.C. Sunday's service honored the longest-serving U.S. senator in history.

Family members greeted each person in the long line with handshakes and smiles, thanking visitors for coming. The line dragged as many people stopped to tell their "Strom stories," prompting one guard to ask visitors not to share them.

Helen Dennis Bone, who came in from the South Carolina coast to pay respects to the Thurmond family, 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 was a recipient 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.

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