98-year-old Thurmond faints in Senate chamber, admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Tuesday, October 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, 98 and ailing, fainted in the Senate chamber Tuesday and was taken to a hospital.

While Thurmond has been to the hospital several times _ including a February stay for fatigue _ this was the first time health problems affected him while in the Senate chamber.

Thurmond reported feeling weak to colleagues and then slumped over at his desk shortly after 10:30 a.m., said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who was presiding over the Senate at the time.

After an aide called for help, the senior Republican was moved to the floor in the aisle between the Senate desks, where Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a heart surgeon, and several medical personnel worked on him for several minutes.

``Dr. Frist checked his response and the best way to describe his condition was that he was woozy,'' said Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo.

After Thurmond's legs were raised, ``he started getting less woozy,'' Allard said. ``Senator Thurmond was conscious the entire time.''

Thurmond was later taken from the Senate in a wheelchair. He waved before being taken away in an ambulance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

``Are they really making all this fuss for me?'' Thurmond said, according to Frist spokeswoman Margaret Camp.

How long Thurmond will remain in the hospital was not immediately known, said his spokeswoman, Genevieve Erny.

The Senate recessed for 20 minutes after Thurmond fainted, and Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., ordered the chamber cleared. Capitol Police also clamped an extraordinary ring of security around the chamber, the corridors surrounding it and even the parking lot outside the Capitol, refusing to allow people near.

Born in December 1902, Thurmond was first elected to the Senate in 1954 as a Democrat He switched to the Republican Party in 1964. In 1996, at the age of 93, he became the oldest person ever to serve in Congress.

Thurmond has gradually scaled back his duties in recent years as his health declined. Until June, when Democrats regained majority status in the Senate, he was third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Thurmond has had bouts of dizziness before and has been to the hospital several times, the most recent in February, when he spent a weekend in Walter Reed suffering from fatigue.

Aides also say a degenerative hip condition keeps Thurmond from traveling extensively. His last time in South Carolina was last Christmas.