STROM THURMOND AND THE POLITICS OF SOUTHERN CHANGE by Nadine Cohodas

STROM THURMOND AND THE POLITICS OF SOUTHERN CHANGE

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Vivid, balanced account of the astonishing political evolution of the legendary segregationist who, through adroit adaptation, has retained his Senate seat for nearly four decades and become a distinguished Washington institution. Born in 1902, Thurmond grew up in a conservative, racially segregated social milieu and a solidly Democratic political culture shaped by racist populists. Cohodas (a sometime reporter for The Congressional Quarterly) presents Thurmond as a personally decent but conformist and politically ambitious product of this environment who, elected governor of South Carolina in 1946, took some progressive steps (such as founding trade schools for blacks) but fought attempts to change his state's ``custom and tradition'' of racial segregation. Thurmond opposed national civil-rights legislation so much that, in 1948, he led fellow ``Dixiecrats'' out of the Democratic Party to run a third-party campaign for President. In 1954, Thurmond began his long career as a senator from South Carolina, achieving an enduring national reputation as the obstructionist who once conducted a 24-hour filibuster against civil-rights legislation. Cohodas argues persuasively that Thurmond's principal political achievement has been to transform the ``solid South'' from a Democratic to a Republican stronghold (in an influential move, Thurmond became a Republican during Barry Goldwater's run for President in 1964). Although, in the national memory, Thurmond will probably always be the ``old seg'' who fulminated against the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Acts, Cohodas shows that his conservatism mellowed and lost its racist edge as American society changed. The author closes with the striking spectacle of Thurmond--who once vowed to fight attempts to ``admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches''--trying, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to help Clarence Thomas onto the Supreme Court. An appealingly affectionate, warts-and-all portrait of a uniquely American figure. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-68935-5
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992




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