Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the African-American daughter of former Sen. Strom Thurmond, died Monday. She was 87.
Thurmond never admitted Washington-Willliams was his daughter, but the retired school Los Angeles teacher announced that she was the legendary South Carolina politician's secret child in December 2003. At that time, she stood before droves of news cameras and reporters to declare that, "I am Essie Mae Washington-Williams, and at last I am completely free."
Thurmond, who died six months prior to Washington-Williams' announcement, had built a long career on Capitol Hill as a champion of segregation. He was 100 years old at the time of his death. He also refrained from admittimng to having a liaison with Washington-Williams' mother, who was a family maid.
"My children ultimately convinced me that history needed to know about Thurmond and that I should set the record straight," Washington-Williams wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2003. "I am not doing this for money. I am not suing his estate. I just want to tell the truth."
Washington-Williams, who died of natural causes in Columbia, S.C., had moved back to South Carolina a few years ago when her health began to fail.