U.S. Senator James Strom Thurmond–known by his middle name, Strom–was born in Edgefield, South Carolina, in 1902. A teacher in the South Carolina high school system, Thurmond later served as county superintendent of education. He studied law and was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1930. Thurmond subsequently served as city and county attorney, a member of the South Carolina state senate, and a circuit judge. Already a United States Army reservist when the nation entered World War II, he volunteered for active duty and served in Europe and in the Pacific. While assigned with the 82nd Airborne Division, Thurmond participated in the Normandy invasion on D–Day in 1944. After the war he rose to the rank of major general in the U.S. Army Reserves, serving for 36 years. In 1946 he was elected governor of South Carolina, a post he held until 1951.
In 1948 Thurmond challenged Harry Truman for president of the United States, running on the States' Rights Democratic ticket. In 1954, after losing the South Carolina Democratic Senate primary, he sought election as a write-in candidate and won, becoming the first person to be elected to a major office on a write-in basis. Because of a promise he made to voters, Thurmond resigned his Senate seat in 1956 to force another election in which he could win by traditional means. He won the election, ironically filling the vacancy caused by his own resignation. Over the next four decades, he won reelection seven times–although he switched his affiliation from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in 1964.
Senator Thurmond chaired the Armed Services and the Judiciary Committees, and he served as president pro tempore of the Senate from 1981 to 1987, and again from 1995 to 2001, when he was named president pro tempore emeritus. In 1957 he set the record for delivering the longest single speech in the Senate, which lasted 24 hours and 18 minutes. In 1997, he became the longest-serving senator in history–-this record was surpassed by Senator Byrd in 2006. Senator Thurmond passed away on June 26, 2003.