Sen. Strom Thurmond's biracial daughter dies during Black History Month

Essie Mae Washington- Williams in 2005.

Isn’t it ironic that the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s biracial daughter died during Black History Month? This was the daughter he never publicly acknowledged who he had with his family’s black maid when he was 22 and she just 16. The word for that is statutory rape, but I digress.

Thurmond was a hard-core segregationist, once declaring, “I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.”

For some bizarre reason, his daughter Essie Mae Washington-Williams, who grew up in Coatesville, Pa.,  kept his secret for years.  She later explained herself saying, she did so  because, "He trusted me, and I respected him." Although he never publicly acknowledged her, he paid her way through college and helped out with his grandchildren's education. "He never called my mother by her name. He didn't verbally acknowledge that I was his child," Washington-Williams wrote in her autobiography, "Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond."

At least, this wasn't a secret that she took with her to her grave. After Thurmond's 2003 death in at age 100, Washington-Williams, who died Sunday at age 87, finally came forward and revealed who her father was.

Dang, I wish she hadn’t waited.

What if she’d stepped forward and blasted the heck out of him back when it mattered, such as when he was fighting against key civil rights legislation and  saying things like, “all the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement.”

What a powerful counterpoint to his hypocrisy and hatefulness, she could have been.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.