Essie Mae Washington-Williams, 87, the long-unrecognized daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, died Monday.

Washington-Williams, the biracial daughter of onetime segregationist Thurmond and a black maid in his parents' Edgefield, S.C., home, was living in Irmo, S.C., at the time of her death. It was not until 2003, after Thurmond's death, that Washington-Williams revealed that he was her father. Thurmond had served in the Senate for 48 years.

In 2003, she told a news conference that her mother, Carrie Butler, was a maid working for the Thurmond family. She said she met her father for the first time at 16.

"At last, I feel completely free," said the retired Los Angeles school teacher.