Fritz Hollings, a giant of South Carolina politics, dead at age 97


Former South Carolina Senator Ernest F. ‘Fritz’ Hollings, a moderate six-term Democrat who made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1984, has died. (April 6)

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Former longtime U.S. Senator and South Carolina Governor Ernest Frederick “Fritz” Hollings has died at age 97 after a period of declining health, according to the Hollings family.

He was a giant of state politics for more than 50 years. He served as the Palmetto State’s junior senator alongside Republican Strom Thurmond for most of his 38 years in the Senate. 

Known for his quick wit and oratory, Hollings worked to lure business to South Carolina and as senator pushed for assistance for those in poverty and hunger. He advocated for environmental policies and economic growth. 

Three of Hollings’ children announced his death Saturday morning in a statement. 

“Our father, Fritz Hollings, was dedicated to his family, the United States Senate and the people of South Carolina,” said the statement from Michael Hollings, Helen Hollings Reardon and Ernest Hollings III. “He was a hero for us and millions of Americans. He was so honored to have served the people of this great state in the South Carolina House of Representatives, as lieutenant governor and governor, and as a member of the United States Senate.

“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.”

Reactions: What SC and US leaders are saying about Hollings’ death

Gov. Henry McMaster, who once ran against Hollings for the Senate, also released a statement that noted the death of Hollings’ wife in 2012

“One of South Carolina’s greatest lions roars no more,” McMaster said. “Fierce, bold, and robust – the sounds of Fritz Hollings’ vision and drive for the Palmetto State will continue to be heard by generations. The greatness and success of this state has benefited from the hand of his leadership. Peggy and I are heartened at his reunion with Peatsy and offer our prayers and condolences to the family.”

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  • Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., talks with reporters during his appearance on 'Face the Nation' Sunday, Feb. 10, 2002 at the CBS studios in Washington. (AP Photo/Face the Nation, Karin Cooper)1 of 12
  • U. S. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-SC, announced at a Monday, Aug. 4, 2003, press conference in Columbia, SC, that he would not seek re-election when his present term expires. Don Fowler, former national Democratic Party chairman, is in background. Staff/George Gardner2 of 12
  • Former President Gerald R. Ford. STAFF FILE photo.Senator Ernest Hollings (center) with Vice President Gerald R. Ford behind him and Mrs. Hollings in front in visit to Greenville, S.C., on May 3, 1974.3 of 12
  • Retired Sen. Ernest Fritz Hollings and his wife Rita Peatsy Hollings laugh after unveiling his official portrait at his induction into the South Carolina Hall of Fame, Monday, Jan 30, 2006.4 of 12
  • Sen. Fritz Hollings campaigns at Haywood Mall in Greenville.5 of 12
  • Fritz Hollings at the Greenville News 2/17/00.6 of 12
  • Fritz Hollings at the Greenville News 2/17/00.7 of 12
  • Sen. Ernest Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., talks to supporters at the Galivants Ferry Stump May 6, 1996. Hollings who is not seeking reelection will be honor at this year's stump meeting Monday May 10, 2004, in Galivants Ferry, S.C (AP Photo/Lou Krasky)8 of 12
  • Sen. Fritz Hollings Wednesday August 29, 2001 in The Greenville News Office.9 of 12
  • Former Senator Fritz Hollings at the Upcountry History Museum signing copies of his book.10 of 12
  • Sen. Fritz Hollings during an interview with The Greenville News on Wednesday, 7-9-08.11 of 12
  • Sen. Fritz Hollings during an interview with The Greenville News on Wednesday, 7-9-08.12 of 12

Hollings served as a U.S. senator from 1966 to 2005. A moderate Democrat, he was the last Democrat to serve as a U.S. senator from South Carolina. He served as governor from 1959 to 1963. Before that, he served as lieutenant governor and as a member of the state House of Representatives.

Hollings was a native of Charleston and a graduate of The Citadel in 1942. He was immediately commissioned into the U.S. Army, where he served in World War II as an officer in the North African and European campaigns. He received the Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons, according to a biography on his website.

He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1947 and was elected to the S.C. House in 1948 at age 26. 

A decade later, at age 36, Hollings was elected governor of South Carolina, the youngest South Carolina governor in the 20th century. 

He is the father of the state’s technical college system, which he started while governor to offer South Carolinians training in trades beyond the textile, farming and mill work many were born into.

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A couple performs morning rituals in the River Ganges on the first day of the nine-day Hindu festival of Navratri on the outskirts of Prayagraj , in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, India, Saturday, April 6, 2019. Hindus are celebrating Navaratri, or the festival of nine nights, with three days each devoted to the worship of Durga, the goddess of valor, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. Rajesh Kumar Singh, AP

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