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Strom Thurmond was born in Edgefield, South Carolina, in 1902 and lived to be over 100 years old. He grew up in a time when the average person knew how to live off the land and he learned the values of health and fitness early on when he attended Clemson College, which was a military school at the time. Strom was also prone to periodic displays of toxic masculinity. In 1947, for example, he did a handstand in his trousers, in front of his new wife for a LIFE Magazine photo. Ten years later, he delivered the longest filibuster ever, at over twenty-four hours, in 1957. In 1964, he wrestled a liberal Texas Senator named Ralph Yarborough and pinned him to the floor outside the Senate chamber until Yarborough yelled “uncle.” Well into his senior years, Strom was known for his excellent shape, and he was interested in health and fitness before they became fads and pseudoscience. The advice he most frequently shared with others included:

  • Start each day with a glass of prune juice and some light exercise like push-ups.
  • No smoking or drinking.
  • Keep a set of barbells nearby for light repetition throughout the day.
  • Avoid fried food, no matter how good it tastes.
  • Avoid breads and unnecessary starches like potatoes in all their forms.
  • Avoid foods like pot likker. Never mix fatback with your vegetables. Strom’s advice on veggies? “Just steam them. Vegetables are delicious by themselves. Let God do the cooking.”
  • If you must fry foods, use canola oil, which is the lowest in saturated fat.
  • Add plenty of fiber to your diet. Use supplements like metamucil and wheat germ to get any benefits your diet may be lacking.
  • Exercise and get at least eight hours of sleep a night.
  • Drink plenty of water, at least three big glasses of water a day. This is especially helpful if done before meals, to help you eat less. Strom preferred the brand of purified water called “Poland Springs.” He declared it was as pure as South Carolina’s water, in addition to being Franklin Roosevelt’s favorite.

Finally, the most important advice Strom lived by was contained in a note his father wrote for him after Strom graduated from Clemson in 1923. The letter was framed, placed on the wall in his Senate office, and read:

Remember your God.

Take good care of your body and tax your nervous system as little as possible.

Obey the laws of the land.

Be strictly honest.

Associate only with the best people, morally and intellectually.

Think three times before you act once and if you are in doubt, don’t act at all.

Be prompt on your job to the minute.

Read at every spare chance and think over and try to remember what you have read.

Do not forget that skill and integrity are the keys to success



Michael Martin

Michael Martin is a teacher and independent historian currently residing in Eastern North Carolina. He's the author of Southern Grit: Sensing the Siege of Petersburg from Shotwell Publishing and you can find more of his work on his YouTube channel, Truth Decay.

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