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Oldest US Senator, Strom Thurmond, Celebrates 100th Birthday - 2002-12-05

The oldest and longest-serving U.S. Senator in history, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, celebrated his 100th birthday at a party on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Family members, friends and colleagues gathered to pay tribute to Republican Senator Thurmond, who is retiring next month after serving 48 years in the Senate.

Mr. Thurmond, who was seated in a wheelchair, was presented with a birthday cake with 100 lit candles.

The celebration went on despite a heavy snowstorm that brought part of Washington to a standstill.

Republican Senator Trent Lott, who is to become majority leader when a new Congress is sworn in next month, alluded to the weather as he paid tribute to Senator Thurmond's Senate career.

"I always knew that Strom Thurmond would never leave the Senate until the Capitol froze over," said Mr. Lott.

Senator Thurmond began his political career as a Democrat but left the party in 1964 and became a leading conservative in the Republican Party. He came to the Senate as an opponent of the civil rights movement, but his views moderated over time.