Ernest ‘Fritz’ Hollings, senator who called fund ‘cancer on body politic’, dies at 97


South Carolina Democrat served six full terms and made brief presidential run in 1984

Ernest ” Fritz ” Hollings, a silver-haired Democrat who helped shepherd South Carolina through desegregation as governor and served six words in the US Senate, just died. He was 97. A family spokesman said Hollings died early on Saturday.

Hollings’s career included an unsuccessful bid for the presidential nomination in 1984. He retired in 2005, one of the last of the larger-than-life Democrats who once predominated southern politics. He had served for 38 years and two months, building him the eighth longest-serving senator in history.

Hollings remained the junior senator from South Carolina for most of his term. The senior senator was Strom Thurmond, elected in 1954. He retired in January 2003 at 100, the longest-serving senator in history.

In his final Senate speech, Hollings lamented that lawmakers had come to expend much of their period creating fund, which he called ” the main perpetrator, the cancer on the body politic “.

” We don’t have period for one another ,” he said,” we don’t have time for constituents except for the givers … We’re in real, real trouble .”

Ernest Frederick Hollings was born in Charleston, South Carolina on 1 January 1922. His father was a paper dealer but the family business went bust in the Depression. Hollings graduated from the Citadel, the state’s military college, in 1942. He entered the army and was decorated for his service during the second world war.

He earned a law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1947. The next year, he was elected to the state House, at age 26. He was elected lieutenant governor six years later and governor in 1958, at 36. His one defeat came in 1962 when he lost a primary to Senator Olin Johnston. After Johnston died, Hollings won a special election and went to the Senate at 44, winning the first of six words two years later.

Hollings was a sharp-tongued orator whose rhetorical prospers in the deep accent of his home state livened many a Washington debate, but his influence never reached the levels he hoped. He sometimes blamed that failing on his background, rising as he did in the south in the 1950 s, as the region bubbled with rage over segregation.

South Carolina largely avoided the racial violence that afflicted some other deep south states but Hollings campaigned against desegregation when operating for governor in 1958. He then built a national reputation as a moderate when, in his farewell address as governor, he pleaded with the legislature to accept integration of public colleges and the admission of the first black student to Clemson University.

” This general assembly must make clear South Carolina’s option, a government of laws rather than a government of men ,” he said. Clemson was peacefully integrated.

In his 2008 autobiography, Making Government Work, Hollings wrote that in the 1950 s” no issue dominated South Carolina more than race” and that he worked for a balanced approach.

” I was’ Mister-In-Between ‘. The governor had to appear to be in charge; yet the realities were not on his side ,” he wrote.” I returned to my basic precept … the safety of the people is the supreme law. I was determined to keep the peace and avoided bloodshed .”

In the Senate, Hollings chaired the commerce, science and transportation committee and held seats on appropriations and budget. He began his run for the presidency in April 1983 but fell out after dismal manifests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

He built a record as a hawk and lobbied hard for military dollars for South Carolina. He originally supported American involvement in Vietnam but his views changed as it became clear there would be no victory. He induced three trip-ups to the war zone and said he learned a lesson.

” It’s a mistake to try to build and destroy a nation at the same time ,” he wrote in his autobiography, advising America was ” repeating the same wrongheaded strategy in Iraq “. In 1991, Hollings opposed permitting President George Bush to use force against Saddam Hussein.

In 1969 he drew attention when he uncovered hunger in his own country by assist lay the groundwork for the Women, Infants and Children feeding program. A year later, he published his first book, The Case Against Hunger. He also helped make the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and write the National Coastal Zone Management Act.

As he prepared to leave office, he told the AP:” People ask you your legacy or your most embarrassing moment. I never, ever lived that way … I’m not trying to get remembered .”

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