The Life and Times of Strom Thurmond

by Emory Professor of History Joseph Crespino
Book Cover for Strom Thurmond's America

The late senator Strom Thurmond is viewed today mostly as a relic from another time. A Southern politician who was shaped by the Great Depression, World War II, and Jim Crow, Thurmond infamously fought tooth and nail to preserve segregation in his home state of South Carolina. If a distinction is made between the old right and the new right, then Thurmond’s racist politics would seem to place him firmly with the old.

Emory Professor of History Joseph Crespino’s new political biography of the senator, Strom Thurmond’s America, shows that while Thurmond may have been one of the last Jim Crow demagogues, he was also one of the first Sunbelt conservatives, and a seminal figure who led the rightward march of the modern Republican Party. Crespino finds he was a man ahead of his time who paved the way for Ronald Reagan and other modern Republicans.

“There’s a good chance that Strom Thurmond would be run out of the Republican Party today,” Crespino told Emory history professor Patrick Allitt in a recent interview. “He’s far too moderate.”

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