Originally created 03/08/06

Senator's daughter wants to help state that embraced her



CHARLESTON, S.C. - Essie Mae Washington Williams, the biracial daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, said Tuesday she hopes South Carolinians might see her a bit like her dad - always ready to help those in her native state.

"I would like to think that's the way they are thinking, because I have done and will do things that are beneficial," said Ms. Williams, here to address the South Carolina Rural Summit.

Ms. Williams added she has been warmly embraced by South Carolinians since the announcement more than two years ago that Mr. Thurmond was her father.

"They have received us. They have embraced us every trip I have made here. They are just wonderful," she said.

Ms. Williams has been in the state a number of times since the announcement in late 2003. Next month, she visits Clemson University.

Her father graduated from Clemson College and the university now is the home of the Strom Thurmond Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

To help rural areas, Ms. Williams has established Washington Williams Resource and Development centers across the state.

The first opened in Eastover last year and offers a place for senior citizens to improve their computer skills. A second opens in suburban Columbia this month while a third will open in Edgefield, Mr. Thurmond's hometown, this summer.

Ms. Williams told the summit attended by state and local economic development officials that the main employment growth in rural areas of the state will come through small businesses.

Earlier those at the conference were told that while there are only 200 industrial announcements nationwide each year that create more than 200 jobs, the nation has 35,000 economic development groups.

Ms. Williams suggested rural communities work to make health care more affordable, provide training for entrepreneurs and help small businesses find capital.

Mr. Thurmond was 22 when Ms. Williams was born in 1925 to a 16-year-old black maid working at his family's Edgefield home.

Mr. Thurmond, at one time a segregationist, died in 2003 at the age of 100 without ever publicly acknowledging Ms. Williams was his daughter.