The estranged wife of U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, who faces trial for alleged drunken driving, said in a letter that she has battled alcoholism for years.
Nancy Thurmond acknowledged her addiction in the 1994 letter sent to friends and a reporter at the The (Columbia) State. The newspaper quoted the letter Saturday.
“My own personal battle with chemical dependency and alcoholism has caused extreme worry and embarrassment for our dear and beloved children, Senator Thurmond and his dedicated staff,” she wrote.
Thurmond, a Republican and the nation’s oldest senator at 93, is running for his seventh term. Spokeswoman Chris Cimko said Saturday Thurmond would not comment on the report, calling it a “personal family matter.”
Nancy Thurmond, a 49-year-old former Miss South Carolina, met the senator as a college intern at his Washington office in 1966. They separated in 1991 after 22 years of marriage.
Their eldest daughter, Nancy Moore Thurmond, 22, was killed in a 1993 auto accident blamed on a woman charged with drunken driving.
In the letter, Nancy Thurmond wrote that she hoped to help her recovery by acknowledging “this progressive and fatal disease with all of its ramifications, beginning with my powerlessness over alcohol and the unmanageability of life around it.”
Nancy Thurmond was charged in August with driving under the influence and speeding, after a police officer stopped her for driving erratically. She refused to take an alcohol breath test, spent a night in jail and her driver’s license was suspended for 90 days.
“My family and I deeply regret this and pray she will handle it in a responsible manner,” Thurmond said after the arrest.
Nancy Thurmond is receiving treatment outside South Carolina, the newspaper reported.
She was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday, but has told court officials she wants a jury trial. No date has been set. If convicted, she faces up to 30 days in jail and a $304 fine.
“This is gut-wrenching for the senator. He feels powerless to do anything about it,” an unidentified family friend told The State. “This is a demon she has battled with for many years.”
One of Nancy Thurmond’s closest friends, Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend, blamed the problems on the “awe and pressures” of Washington life.