There are not enough laws on the books of the nation, nor can there be enough laws, to break down segregation in the South," then-South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond declared in 1948 when he accepted the presidential nomination of the Dixiecrat Party.
It is a sign of the time that Strom Thurmond, now South Carolina's 74-year-old senior senator, escorted his six-year-old daughter this morning to her first grade classroom at the Columbia public school that is 50 per cent black.
The principal at A. C. Moore elementary school, in an integrated, downtown neighborhood of Columbia, is black. So is 44 per cent of the faculty, including the woman who will be Nancy Moore Thurmond's teacher, Eunice McKelvey.
McKelvey, a native of South Carolina with 25 years of teaching experience, including teaching stints at U.S. Army schools in Germany and Hawaii met Thurmond today when he walked his daughter to the school from their home four blocks away. He shook hands with several parents and pupils while standing in the schoolyard.
"I'm hoping we won't be too much in the spotlight," said McKelvey. "I don't neglect any of my children.The children of famous parents come from interesting backgrounds and that's good for all the children."
Thurmond moved his wife and four young children to Columbia in June in preparation for what is expected to be a tough contest in 1978 to keep the Senate seat he has held since 1954. "If we stayed in Washington, we were afraid we would never get to see Strom," explained Nancy Thurmond, the senator's 30-year-old wife. "He expects to spend a lot of time campaigning in South Carolina."
Thurmond, a Republican, expects to face 33-year-old Charles (Pug) Ravenel, a Democrat next year, Ravenel, considered something of a boy wonder in state politics who nearly became governor in 1974 announced last month that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the Senate.
The Thurmond family moved into the senator's comfortable brickhome in a quiet, integrated area of downtown Columbia in June. The home was bought by Thurmond about 10 years ago and usually was rented out. The area is favored by young professionals, including attorneys and professors at the nearby University of South Carolina.
A. C. Moore elementary, a red brick office built in 1930, is four blocks from the Thurmond's temporary home. It has the reputation of being one of the better facilities in the city's school system.
Political observers here believe that the enrollment of Nancy Moore Thurmond at the school is a shrewd move by the senator.
"It should help him with the vote of the public school teachers, with the people who support the public schools, and probably with the blacks too," said one Democrat.
The vote of South Carolina's blacks, who comprise about 26 per cent of the registered electorate, is expected to be crucial in a tight race between Thurmond and Ravenel.
"We didn't think about that," insisted Mrs. Thurmond. "It's really no big thing. We had intended to send Nancy Moore to a public school in McLean [Virginia where they have a permanent home]. We have always been interested in the public schools. I went to public schools. They have stood the test of time."
"We're doing what we think is best for Nancy Moore", said Mrs. Thurmond.
Nancy Moore Thurmond is the oldest of the Thurmonds' four children, who range in age from 18 months to six years.
Making moves that will help neutralize previous opposition in the blacks community is nothing new to Thurmond. He had been the symbol of segregation in the South during the 1948 Dixiecrat campaign, and in 1964 was one of the chief opponents of the Civil Rights Act, calling it "extreme to the point of being revoluntionary."
But in 1972, Thurmond's former aide, Harry Dent told a South Carolina newspaper that "we're going to try to get him on the high ground of fairness on the race question."
Since then, Thurmond became the first member of the South Carolina delegations to hire a black staffer, was given the distinguished service award of South Carolina's predominantly black Voorhees College and recommended a leading black civil rights attorney for a federal judgeship.
McKeivey, the teacher who was specifically requested by the Thurmonds for their daughter, says she keeps out of anything remotely political. "I don't even say what [political] party I belong to," she said.
The South Carolina public schools were integrated in 1971. Last year, A. C. Moore was 49 per cent black, 51 per cent white. This fall, the enrollment is exactly 50-50.