Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Strom Thurmond, July 20, 1978. Interview A-0334. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Decision at an early age to be a public speaker and lawyer

Thurmond's father gave him advice and examples for his future career by having Thurmond help in his law office. Though his parents were also involved in ministry and agriculture, Thurmond leaned toward law and politics partly out of a desire to hone his speaking skills.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Strom Thurmond, July 20, 1978. Interview A-0334. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JAMES G. BANKS:
Have you ever given a sermon, preached?
STROM THURMOND:
Well, I don't preach a sermon, I've talked in a church. for God and Country Day and I talked. But I don't hold to be any preacher . . .
JAMES G. BANKS:
No, no, but you mentioned your mother could give a sermon as good or better than a preacher, I wondered. Did you ever think about that when you were making a decision about politics;did you ever consider the ministry as a possible career.
STROM THURMOND:
No I never did consider the ministry. I have a nephew who's kind of undecided between the ministry and medicine. He used to be an obstetrician, tremendous practice in Greenwood.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Let me back into a little bit more about your father and politics. Was politics a family thing or was it mainly your father.
STROM THURMOND:
Well, we were in politics from the time I can remember. 'Cause he was working;he was with the Tillman crowd you see. Now, he was a member of the House from 1894 to ninety six and then he became Solicitor, he was elected from 1896 to nineteen four.
JAMES G. BANKS:
This was your father now.
STROM THURMOND:
Yeah. He must have killed this man, I guess, about 1899.
JAMES G. BANKS:
What was that over, if I might ask.
STROM THURMOND:
The fellow grew up in the same part of the county, way down there where you came from.
JAMES G. BANKS:
In Edgefield.
STROM THURMOND:
Yeah. And, I don't know what he was drinking but anyway, he was threatening and they got in a fight. Fellow Harris. I think he followed around my father's horse, and my father was trying to get away from him. But the fellow was just determined to cause trouble, following him around. But I think he grew up down in that same area down there where my father lived and was probably a little jealous of him, I was told. 'Cause my father had done well you know, in law.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Were you aware of what your father did for a living, did he tell you or did you ask him?
STROM THURMOND:
He told me later, about having to kill the man, after I was older.
JAMES G. BANKS:
What I meant is, some kids today don't really know what their father does, the father goes away and comes home. Did you know that your father was an attorney and in politics?
STROM THURMOND:
I knew what he did, yeah. 'Cause I would be with him.
JAMES G. BANKS:
You always went with him.
STROM THURMOND:
Yeah. In other words, we'd go up to the office practically every day and sometimes he'd send us on missions and things, you know, just to do. And then during court time we'd go up and hear the cases tried.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Can you remember at what age that you might have thought that you would pursue a political career.
STROM THURMOND:
Well all along I thought I might get into politics. But in 1912 when Jones and Blease ran and I saw Blease castigate Jones unnecessarily without reason and degrade him, I made up my mind then I was going to run for governor some day.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Well, I guess you did. Because of the abuse?
STROM THURMOND:
And I made up mind I was going to learn to speak and never let a man do me like that. (laughter)
JAMES G. BANKS:
Because that's how;Blease just snowed him over didn't he. I can appreciate that. Did you say to yourself I could do that good myself.
STROM THURMOND:
Well, Jones, he made a good talk, a literary talk. But he just didn't stir the people. And Blease did. I was ten years old then.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Later on when your father was still living, did you ever ask him for advice as to what you should do?
STROM THURMOND:
Yeah.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Did you ever have a disagreement with him, politically?
STROM THURMOND:
No, I don't think so, politically, we were pretty well together.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Did you ever have a disagreement with him when you were older.
STROM THURMOND:
Well we may not have agreed on everything. He;law is a tough task master. When I thought about studying law, he just wanted me to think it over well and be sure. Since I went to Clemson and they taught agriculture and to live out in the open;he thought that was a good life for a person. 'Cause he's pinned down to an office and he said, you'd better think it over well. But I'd about made up my mind when I was grown up I was going to be a lawyer. But I just went to Clemson because so many other Edgefield boys I liked went there. And then I got interested in teaching;it's a great challenge to teach school. He taught school himself.