State Sen. Paul Thurmond, son of longtime U.S. Senator and once-ardent segregationist Strom Thurmond, took the podium this morning and declared “the time is right” to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol.
“It is time to acknowledge our past, atone for our sins, and work for a better future,” the Charleston Republican said. “That future cannot be built on symbols of war, hate, and divisiveness.”
“I am aware of my heritage,” Thurmond said of his family’s place in S.C. history, and specifically the Civil War. Referring to slavery and the War’s role in preserving it, Thurmond said, “I am not proud of this heritage. These practices were inhumane and wrong, wrong, wrong.”
Thurmond’s father, Strom, ran for president in 1948 as a ‘Dixiecrat,’ under the banner of the States’ Rights Democratic ticket after President Harry Truman ordered the desegregation of the U.S. military. Thurmond first won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1954 as a special election write-in candidate and would soon draft initial versions of the Southern Manifesto, opposing racial desegregation after the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. The elder Thurmond’s 24-hour filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 remains the longest in Senate history. Strom served in the U.S. Senate until 2003, when he left office at the age of 100.
In the days following the suspected race-motivated killings of nine black parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, Gov. Nikki Haley and others have said they’re committed to putting the wheels in motion to remove the flag from the capitol area.
“I am proud to take a stand and no longer be silent,” Thurmond said from the well on Tuesday. “We must take down the Confederate flag and we must take it down now. But if we stop there, we have cheated ourselves out of an opportunity to start a different conversation about healing in our state,” he said. “I am ready.”