James Strom Thurmond was an American politician who served for 48 years as a United States Senator from South Carolina. He ran for president in 1948 as the States Rights Democratic Party candidate, receiving 2.4% of the popular vote and 39 electoral votes. Thurmond represented South Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 until 2003, at first as a Democrat and, after 1964, as a Republican.
A magnet for controversy during his nearly half-century Senate career, Thurmond switched parties because of his disaffection with the support for civil rights of the national Democratic party, and his support for the conservatism of the Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater. In the months before switching, he had "been critical of the Democratic Administration for ... enactment of the Civil Rights Law", while Goldwater "boasted of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and made it part of his platform." Thurmond left office as the only member of either chamber of Congress to reach the age of 100 while still in office, and as the oldest-serving and longest-serving senator in U.S. history.