In 2003, producers Dana Roberson and Mary Mapes pursued a persistent rumor about the existence of a black daughter of the recently deceased Strom Thurmond. The former U.S. senator, famous for his segregationist remarks, had been supporting his daughter financially since the 1960s. The 60 MInutes II producers found the retired schoolteacher, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, in Los Angeles. After much resistance, she agreed to come to New York to sit down for an interview with Dan Rather.
As Dana Roberson recounts, Rather was very careful to let her tell her story by asking sensitive and respectful questions. For the journalist, this was one of the many stories he did about race and race relations, a topic that has interested him since he had covered the civil rights movements in the South in the 1960s.