Former U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings, more popularly known as "Fritz," has died at the age of 97, according to NPR.
A veteran Democrat, Hollings served South Carolina in the Senate for six terms, encompassing nearly four decades of service. He is believed to be one of the last in a generation of Democrats who went on to dominate Southern politics. In 1984, "Fritz" ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, which he eventually lost to Walter Mondale. Steve Hartell, who was Hollings' Legislative Director from 1998 to 2003, told NPR that he was informed of Hollings' death early on Saturday morning.
Hartell remembered Hollings as a World War II veteran who turned to politics because of his desire to see the United States as the most competitive economy in the world.
"He was kind of ahead of his time. He was always focused on the essential needs of the country: competitiveness of the economy, the balance sheet of the country from a budget perspective. And as someone who was a World War II veteran who served his country as a 20-year-old in North Africa and Europe, above everything a patriot."Born in Charleston, South Carolina, "Fritz" Hollings served as a combat soldier in the U.S. Army from 1942 to the end of the war in 1945. After returning home, he studied law before being elected to the South Carolina legislature, which marked the beginning of his political career.
He then served as the Governor of the state during the Civil Rights Movement, and while Hollings was first reported to oppose desegregation, he ended his term by urging the state legislature to accept the integration of public schools, according to The Washington Post.After completing his gubernatorial term, Hollings contested for South Carolina's Senate seat in 1966 in a special election, which he won. This started his 38-year service at the Senate, making him the eighth longest-serving senator ever. Surprisingly, despite being such an old-timer, Hollings spent much of his time in the Senate as an extremely senior "junior senator," because he served alongside South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, a segregationist whose career lasted a remarkable 48 years.
In his farewell speech in 2004, "Fritz" Hollings blasted today's politicians for making money the core tenet of Washington's decision-making process.
"Rather than seeking the truth, we've been obscuring it. We're spending $6oo billion more than we're taking in," Hollings said. "The cancer on the body of politics is money. Money, money, money."