James Strom Thurmond (1902–2003) was an influential South Carolina politician and one of the longest serving senators in American history. Thurmond was elected as the Democratic governor of South Carolina in 1946, but he split from the Democratic Party in 1948 over its support for civil rights. A conservative segregationist, Thurmond organized the States’ Rights Democratic Party—or Dixiecrats—and earned thirty-nine electoral votes as the Dixiecrat presidential nominee. He was elected to the Senate in 1954. In 1964 he broke from the Democratic Party for good and was re-elected as a Republican. He served seven terms as a Republican, remaining a member of the Senate until his death in 2003.

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