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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 >>

Many benefits of integration for South Carolina

Segregation was not something Thurmond had to learn to notice or adjust to; he says he grew up accepting the practice as the preferable way of life for people of both races. He feels that an increase in opportunities, especially educational opportunities, has made integration a positive development. In that sense, he feels that South Carolina has been very effective in making integration work.

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:
You mentioned race a couple of times and maybe you'll give me an opportunity to mention that. What is your first awareness as a boy and when you were growing up when you became aware, obviously, that there are races, and that there was segregation and how you began to absorb that.
STROM THURMOND:
Well, we just accepted it. In other words, it was unheard to think about mixing the blacks and the whites. It was just plain unheard of.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Well, you had black people working for you didn't you, in the house?
STROM THURMOND:
That's right, worked with them in the fields and worked with 'em everywhere. Liked 'em, done anything for 'em, or loaned 'em money. When I was a lawyer I represented 'em whether they could pay or not and do things for 'em, help 'em every way I could. But it was just considered unheard of that you would mix 'em in the schools and churches and such as that. They were happy to go with their own race to those places, I think at that time certainly. But as time came on and they became better educated and they dressed better and had better facilities for bathing and everything like that, it changed the whole picture. And of course as time has gone by, they were afforded more opportunities; I think that everybody right now just accepts it. But a lot of people don't understand that at the time I was governor and when Byrnes was governor, that, well, you held up your hand and enforced the law, and the law was segregation. It wasn't they were against the blacks, it was just a law of the state. Although we didn't have to enforce it because the people enforced it themselves, because they were satisfied to have it that way. I'm glad that things have changed now where there are better opportunities and I want to see 'em have every opportunity of everybody else.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Do you think if you were governor and you tried to break down segregation, the people and the state legislature would have revolted against you.
STROM THURMOND:
Yeah, they were not ready at that time to do it.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Byrnes, of course Byrnes was governor after you.
STROM THURMOND:
Yeah, Byrnes was governor after me. And he defended the case when the Brown decision was handed down. They were just not ready at that time to go that far. But it was just a matter of time, they're getting better educations, which I tried to provide for them, and I'm sure Byrnes is too. It's just a matter of time until the situation would come. But it just takes a little time, you can't do it all over night.
JAMES G. BANKS:
Do you think we've reached now the point where we could call it an ideal race relationship? I mean, that we are in equality, we have equality in society?
STROM THURMOND:
Well, I wouldn't say it's ideal. Undoubtedly there are pockets, in my state and in every other state, where probably there still is some feeling maybe that they're not satisfied with everything about the blacks. But I do say this, I think South Carolina has gone as far and as fast as any state in trying to provide equal opportunities. And I think they ought to provide equal opportunities, I'm in favor of that. I think the best thing you can do for 'em is to educate 'em. If you educate 'em; as I say, I've established scholarships in four different black colleges. I want to do everything I can to help 'em. I've helped the black;well I got the President of Morris College here tonight. Thanking me after we got a four hundred thousand dollar grant last year for a new building over at Morris College in Sumter. He's just thanking me for it, and expressing his desire that I be reelected seeing how much I've done for him and everything.