In 2003, when The Washington Post persuaded Essie Mae Washington-Williams to publicly identify herself as the biracial daughter of Thurmond, who once had been an avowed segregationist, Wilson accused the woman of trying to "smear" the senator, who had died six months earlier. "It's a smear on the image that [Thurmond] has as a person of high integrity who has been so loyal to the people of South Carolina," Wilson said.
When the Thurmond family acknowledged that Washington-Williams was indeed Thurmond's daughter, Wilson apologized but did not back down from his assertion that she should have kept quiet.
In Washington, Wilson is known for covering his office walls with framed photos of Republicans and for filling cabinets with elephant figurines and busts of such politicians as Thomas Jefferson and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.
Wilson revels in the pomp of Capitol Hill, once telling the State, a Columbia newspaper, that every day is "like Christmas."
"I love parliamentary maneuvering!" he was quoted as saying. "I love the trees! . . . I love this view!"