[image-1]Ernest ‘Fritz’ Hollings, the Charleston-born politician who represented South Carolina in the U.S. Senate for 38 years, died Saturday morning.

He was 97.

The Citadel graduate made the rounds of power in the Palmetto State, serving in the S.C. House of Representatives from 1949 to 1955 and as lieutenant governor from 1955 to 1959.

He began his term as governor in 1959, courting industry to improve the state’s economy and overseeing the establishment of the state’s technical college system. He won a seat on the U.S. Senate in 1966 after the death of Sen. Olin D. Johnston, who had defeated Hollings for the seat four years earlier.

Hollings retired from that job in 2005.

In a statement Saturday morning, his children Michael, Helen, and Ernest highlighted their father’s commitment to the Palmetto State.

“Our father, Fritz Hollings, was dedicated to his family, the United States Senate and the people of South Carolina,” the family wrote. “While we are heartbroken, we hope that in the coming days and weeks as we celebrate our father’s life, all South Carolinians will be reminded of his service to our state and nation.” 

Hollings sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1984. Though he looked presidential, his exuberant personality took center stage.

“What they see is a mouth that roars and won’t quit, an unguided verbal missile,” wrote Helen Dewar in a 1984 article for the Washington Post about his candidacy.

[image-2]He was prone to petty jabs, and he wasn’t afraid of making racially insensitive statements.

“Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) is ‘Sky King.’ Former vice president Walter F. Mondale is a ‘lap dog’ who would ‘lick the hand’ of everyone in sight,” the article continues, describing Hollings’ choice words for his opponents. “Californians who came to Iowa to help Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) were ‘wetbacks.’ Aid to Latin America is like “delivering lettuce by way of a ‘rabbit.'”

Still, Hollings led South Carolina as governor during a particularly rough time in racial relations, between the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that established public school segregation as unconstitutional and the height of the Civil Rights Era.

He ran on upholding segregation during his campaign to lead the state in the late 1950s, despite eventually conceding the fight in his farewell address as governor.

“As we meet, South Carolina is running out of courts … this General Assembly must make clear South Carolina’s choice, a government of laws rather than a government of men … This should be done with dignity. It should be done with law and order,” he said, according to a copy of his address held by the University of South Carolina.

Public condolences poured in immediately after news broke of Hollings’ death.

“One of South Carolina’s greatest lions roars no more,” said Gov. Henry McMaster in a statement. “Fierce, bold, and robust — the sounds of Fritz Hollings’ vision and drive for the Palmetto State will continue to be heard by generations.”

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg shared that he, his father, and his grandfather all worked for Hollings on various campaigns.

“Fritz Hollings was truly a man in full — a history-making governor, a titan of the US Senate, and a peerless friend to all who were fortunate enough to know him,” Tecklenburg said in a statement. “Fritz made so much history over so many years, it took three generations of Tecklenburgs to support just one generation of Hollings.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina focused on Hollings’ achievements in the upper chamber.

“He was the father of South Carolina’s technical school system, which is the envy of the nation. He led our state through the travails of the civil rights movement with dignity and went on to become one of the most effective senators to ever serve,” Graham said. “As the junior senator from South Carolina, he welcomed me to the Senate and helped me get established.”

The public may pay their respects to Hollings at the James A. McAllister funeral home at 1620 Savannah Highway on Sun. April 14 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The former lawmaker’s body will lie in state at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia on Mon. April 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.