Thurmond celebrates century mark

— Strom Thurmond, the oldest and longest-serving senator in history, reached his 100th birthday Thursday surrounded by family, friends, Supreme Court justices and leaders of the Senate he helped to reshape.

The Senate is a family, said former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., at a Capitol Hill birthday celebration, "and today the family assembles to honor its patriarch."

Hundreds of friends and supporters cheered as his two sons and his daughter blew out candles on a red, white and blue cake. Daughter Julie announced she was pregnant, which will make Thurmond, who had his first child at age 68, a grandfather for the first time.

Thurmond, who is retiring with the end of this session of Congress, served for 48 years, longer than any other senator in history, and goes out the oldest man to serve in the Senate.

Frail and in a wheelchair, Thurmond appeared moved by his daughter's announcement and the event in his honor. "Live a long time and enjoy the time," he said.

Organizers said seven of the nine Supreme Court justices -- minus Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas -- attended the event, as did incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

Referring to Thurmond's reputation as a lady's man, a Marilyn Monroe impersonator sang happy birthday to the senator, much as Monroe did in the 1960s at a party for President Kennedy. Thurmond looked up and smiled when Lott said that his 89-year-old mother had a crush on him.

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AP Photo

Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., waves to well-wishers as he arrives at a party to celebrate his 100th birthday. He was joined Thursday by his wife, Nancy, to his right, and his daughter, Julie, standing behind his wife. Thurmond will step down from his Senate seat at the end of this session.

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