Here's the platform of Strom Thurmond's States Rights Democratic Party, courtesy of The Smoking Gun. Start with paragraph #4, indicated by the handy red arrow, if you still think these folks were motivated primarily by an abstract distaste for government centralization ("We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race"). (Thanks to Eschaton for the link.)
And, as the Daily Howler points out, Thurmond doesn't say "nigra" in the 1948 speech excerpted here as an audio clip -- he says "nigger."
And yet the Air Force is going to name a C-17 airlifter after Thurmond, UPI reports. To the present and future servicemen and servicewomen who are descendants of those Thurmond fought so hard to keep disenfranchised, this is a slap in the face.