Funeral Saturday for daughter of Strom Thurmond - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Funeral Saturday for daughter of Strom Thurmond

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WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Essie Mae Washington Williams was laid to rest Saturday.  The 87-year-old  was the mixed-race daughter of late US Senator Strom Thurmond.

It was a small gathering of close friends and family at Brookland Baptist Church.

They remembered her for being gentle, kind, and respectful to everyone.

"My mother is the type of person that she reached out to people," said her oldest daughter Wanda Williams-Bailey. "She always maintained a certain style and dignity."

It's quality that was shown 10 years ago when she exposed a secret she kept quiet for more than 60 years: Her father was late US Senator Strom Thurmond.


It was a message that thrust her into the national spotlight soley focused on revelation.
 

Saturday, with the audience much smaller, loved ones spoke about Williams' character.

"Mom taught us that all of us has the potential for a vastly enriched life," said daughter Monica Williams-Hudgens.

"You will always come first in my heart," said daughter Wanda Williams-Bailey. "No matter how far we are apart."

 Her sorority sisters from Delta Sigma Theta called her an inspiration.

"She lived fully and laughed often. She looked for the best in others and gave the best she had."

Her son got choked up when speaking about Washington-Williams half brothers and sister.
    
"I want to thank the Thurmond Family for making it so easy for her," said Dr. Ronald Williams. "By embracing her."
     
It's a relationship that's still being worked out, according to Williams' daughter Wanda Williams-Bailey.

She says the Thurmond and Williams families have communicated here and there through the years, but not nearly enough.  Bailey hopes the moment will bring the family's closer now more than ever.

"Strom Thurmond did appear," said Bailey. "For him to come out today just brought a great deal peace and satisfaction to me. It solidified the deal that my mother is his sister."

She was remembered as a woman some will always remember for protecting her families legacy with dignity and grace.

"I will say good bye for now. Until we meet again, I love you mom. Rest in peace."

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