Originally created 07/13/01

Thurmond office stays put



AIKEN - A black oval for sale sign nailed to the side of the Old Aiken Post Office looms just a few feet above U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond's office.

That sign has been mounted there for more than a year, and it is likely to remain until the senator's term expires in 2002, the landmark's owner, photographer Todd Lista, said Friday.

No buyer would want to move into the downtown building without making some renovations to the main floors, which would make enough noise to violate the government's lease with the building's owner, Mr. Lista said.

The building has marble floors, and any renovation would shake the senator's basement office.

"No one would be able to give (the senator's office) 'peaceable occupancy' with jackhammers going," said Mr. Lista, whose asking price is $1.325 million.

Staying put for awhile is fine by him. Mr. Lista said it adds to the building's value that 98-year-old Mr. Thurmond will end his career in the office where he started as a senator, he said.

Elected to the Senate as a write-in candidate in 1954, Mr. Thurmond opened his office in the basement of the then-bustling Aiken Post Office. He moved his office to York Street in 1979, after his lease ended. The senator returned to his original office location in October.

"I am pleased to see that my Aiken office has returned to its former location at the Old Aiken Post Office," Mr. Thurmond said in a statement Friday.

Elizabeth McFarland, the senator's Aiken staffer for 15 years, reminisced Friday about the senator coming full circle. Although he spends most of his time now in the nation's capital, a lot of his memorabilia is in his Aiken office.

His grand walnut desk, with an American flag mounted next to it, carries photos of the senator from his early political days; a Bible with his name engraved on it; and magazines adorned by former U.S. Sen. Benjamin Tillman of Edgefield, one of Mr. Thurmond's heroes.

Portraits of himself and pictures of Washington hang above the desk, alongside a framed newspaper editorial cartoon depicting Mr. Thurmond with Energizer batteries lodged in his back while he blows out candles coating a birthday cake. The caption reads, "So that's his secret."

National magazines that feature Mr. Thurmond are scattered throughout the office. One of Mrs. McFarland's favorite magazine photos shows the senator shaking former President Clinton's hand and slipping him a Strom Thurmond keychain.

"That's just so typical of him," she said.

The office also houses dozens of books filled with media clippings documenting the Republican senator's long and storied career. But most of his memorabilia is on display at Clemson University, the senator's alma mater.

"He's such an incredible individual. Although he might not be as famous as some statesmen, he's probably touched more lives. He's always been there for South Carolina and its people," Mrs. McFarland said.

Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895