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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Strom Thurmond, July 20, 1978. Interview A-0334. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Thurmond's accomplishments as state superintendent of education

As the Superintendent of Education in South Carolina, Thurmond started health classes and free health examinations for local students. He also raised scholarships for poor children to attend summer school. Money for these programs came from raising county taxes, and the programs helped his political record.

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:
What goals did you have as Superintendent of Education. Because you had been a teacher.
STROM THURMOND:
Well he had run the country way in debt and I was always a believer in fiscal responsible. And he ran the county in debt and they didn't put on the taxes to pay it. That was one thing. The other thing was, I wanted to instill a course in health for the children of the county;teach 'em a course in health. I felt that's the basis of everything, if you don't have a healthy body you can't do anything. Then we wanted to instill a course in character for students. And during that four years I was superintendent we were able to get the dentists to volunteer their services and examine all the school children free. It turned out that they got a lot of business from it, because they found so many cavities and things like that. But that's all right, I wanted 'em examined to point out defects. Then we had the doctors to examine all the children. And we sent a card home showing if they needed dental treatment;I had cards printed up;or if they had anything wrong with 'em physically.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Of course the schools then were segregated weren't they?
STROM THURMOND:
They were segregated, that's right.
JAMES G. BANKS:
But everybody got to see the doctor?
STROM THURMOND:
Yeah, and that was a big thing for those children, it was a big help to 'em. It was something that had never been done before.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Well, black kids as well as white kids I would expect, never had that service.
STROM THURMOND:
That's right. So, then when I was teaching I had gotten up farm boys to take off to a summer school that I had charge of 1925, '26, '27, and '28. And they were not able to pay their way;it was only twelve dollars for a month;but about half of 'em weren't able to pay that. So I went to the Lion's Club and I went to the churches and I got them to raise some money for scholarships for these boys. That helped me politically. (chuckle) But it was a worthy cause, I wanted to do it to help the boys, and incidentally it did help me.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Was that really a conscious step, I'm going to run for County Superintendent?
STROM THURMOND:
No, I wasn't sure I was going to run for County Superintendent then.
JAMES G. BANKS:
But it was a good political base.
STROM THURMOND:
Well, I wanted to help those rural children that needed that help. At the same time I was keeping in mind that some day I probably would run, but I didn't know when. And when I decided to take law, the superintendent's place was a place that I could kind of arrange;that I could study at night and be at home with my father and do some things for the schools I wanted to do anyway. Of course having been a teacher I saw the need of a lot of these things. And so it just fitted ideally. I kind of hated to run against old man Fuller. But he'd been there a long time, all he did was hunt. He didn't do anything to improve the schools much. And there were so many things I saw that could be done.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Did you have to raise the property tax a little bit, a special bond?
STROM THURMOND:
We did raise it. Because I called in the trustees and I said, now here last year, why you spent so much and your income was only so much. They said, well Mr. Fuller said we could do it. I said, you just can't do that, we've got to balance this budget and we've got to raise taxes. We did raise taxes and paid off that debt. And when I left I left with a surplus. I left a surplus there and then I went to the state senate and I put the county on the county unit system so that the towns with the railroads would have to help out these country communities who had four times or more as much mileage as the towns did, to run the schools. Because they're poor country districts, no railroads, no industry, no anything.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Well, Edgefield was like that wasn't it?
STROM THURMOND:
Yeah. Put the whole thing on the county unit system, put on a uniform tax on all of 'em, and give 'em all the same education. And that helped the poor, you can tell that.