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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 belief in limiting federal authority

When Strom Thurmond ran for president in 1948, he chose a platform of states' rights and limited federal authority. He believes that the federal government would have accumulated less centralized power by 1978 if he had been elected.

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

Would you say now, as you look back, you've accomplished all that you've really set out to do. I mean, you're sitting there, and that's where you wanted to sit.
STROM THURMOND:
Well, I don't know that. (chuckle) It's kind of hard to say that. Well, I ran for president in 1948. And the reasons I ran for president, I just got sick and tired of seeing more power being centralized here in Washington. Truman was advocating this unreasonable Civil Rights program, and I've never been against blacks, but he was just catering to that group to win votes. And he was advocating a law against lynching. Well lynching is nothing but murder and every state has laws in the murder. And he was advocating passing a law to repeal the poll taxes as prerequisite for voting. Well, I had always advocated that as governor, my first year, and gotten it repealed it down there. Congress never did pass a law to repeal the poll tax. Later, ten years after we'd done it in South Carolina, or maybe ten years after I came here, Harlan introduced a constitutional amendment. That's the proper way to do it; contitutional amendment to repeal the poll taxes as prerequisite to voting. And that was done. But when I was governor we were way ahead of 'em on so many progressive things. But as I said, Truman was advocating things; he was trying to do by statue what should have been done by amending the constitution. And then advocating so many other things too that were unreasonable and centralizing power in Washington. I've always been afraid of federal power. Or too much power in any one place. Because it ultimately brings tyranny. And ultimately can result in totalitarianism if it's carried far enough. I've always believed in the rights of the states to run their own affairs.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Did you ever speculate on what, if you had been elected president in 1948?
STROM THURMOND:
I think the country would be different today.
JAMES G. BANKS:
How would it be different?
STROM THURMOND:
I think we could have reversed the trend of centralizing more power in Washington. The federal government has gone into almost every conceivable field of activity here. The field of education, no one believes in education more than I do. I have put my honorariums and got money from other sources. I've established twenty five, twenty six scholarships in twenty four different places in institutions in South Carolina colleges. Four black colleges and white colleges and even at correctional institutions where these young people go who have committed crimes. Give them a chance to do well and reform and to go to college. I established one there. And I established scholarships, several, at the Strom Thurmond high school that's named after me. And no one believes in it more than I do. But the word education is not even mentioned in the United States constitution. And if they're going to go into the field of education, they should amend the constitution. I'm a strict believer in the constitution of the United States. I think it ought to be followed or it ought to be amended in the way provided in the constitution. And not try to pass a law to do things that they don't have the power to do. Now that's just an illustration. That way, education not found in the constitution, they have no right to go into it unless they amend the constitution to allow 'em to go into it. They're going into so many field like that. That was disturbing me, and they've done a lot of it since I've been here in the Senate. I've opposed it after we go into a field, then I vote on the merits but I vote against going into it to start with because I didn't think it was proper. So, if I had been elected president I think we could've stopped that trend that was just beginning along about that time, to a great extent.
JAMES G. BANKS:
I'd like to follow up on that idea a little bit, with your reaction to national historical movements.
STROM THURMOND:
Now we can give you a sheet too that will tell you about why I ran for president, if you'd like to have that.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Fine. What do you view as the most important historical event in your life?
STROM THURMOND:
The most important historical event? I'd have to think over that some, it's kind of hard to say off hand. One of the most vivid experiences I've had was when the sheriff over there was killed. I was the judge then, that was the fall of 1941. Wadd Allen was the sheriff, he was killed by George Logue. I'll give you a book that was written about me and my first wife that tells about that. I don't know if that's such a historic thing. The most historic thing I guess was running for president. Because if we a change of 20,000 votes in two states would've thrown that election to the House. It was that close.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Do you think you could've won it in the House. Or traded, maybe.
STROM THURMOND:
Well, we might have won it in the House for this reason. The Republicans hated Truman. The whole country seemed to have hated him for the most part. (chuckle) But I think the southerners at that time the Civil Rights program had so upset the southerners it would have been very difficult for them to have voted against a candidate from the South running for president. And the Republicans might have just gone; I was told by some Republicans that they would've chosen me if it'd gone to the House over Truman. Of course no one knows what would've happened. But there was a chance there, there was a chance that with the southerners and the Republicans, it might've been done.