Ernest Frederick "Fritz" Hollings (born January 1, 1922) served as a Democratic United States Senator from South Carolina from 1966 to 2005, as well as the 106th Governor of South Carolina (1959–1963) and the 77th Lieutenant Governor (1955–1959). He served 38 years and 55 days in the Senate, which makes him the 8th-longest-serving Senator in history. He served alongside Republican Strom Thurmond for 36 of those years, making them the longest-serving Senate duo in history, and Hollings the most senior junior senator from a state. At the age of 95, he is currently the oldest living U.S. Senator.
Hollings was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Wilhelmine Dorothea (Meyer) and Adolph Gevert Hollings, Sr. He was raised at 338 President St. in the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood from the age of ten through enrolling in college. He graduated from The Citadel in 1942, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree. He received an LL.B. from the University of South Carolina in 1947 after only 21 months of study, and joined a law practice in Charleston. Hollings is a brother of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. He was married to Rita Liddy "Peatsy" Hollings from 1971 until her death in October 2012. He had four children (Michael, Helen, Patricia Salley, and Ernest the 3rd) with his first wife, (Martha) Patricia Salley Hollings. He is a Lutheran. In addition, Fritz and Patricia had two sons who died.
Hollings served as an officer in the U.S. Army's 353rd and 457th Artillery units from 1942 to 1945, during World War II, and was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in direct support of combat operations from December 13, 1944 to May 1, 1945 in France and Germany. He received the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five Bronze Service Stars for participation in the Tunisia, Southern France, Rome-Arno, Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns.
He served three terms in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1949 to 1954. After only one term, Hollings' colleagues elected him Speaker Pro Tempore in 1951 and 1953. He was subsequently elected Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina in 1954, and Governor in 1958 at age 36.
Governor of South Carolina
As governor of South Carolina from January 20, 1959, to January 15, 1963, Hollings worked to improve the state's educational system, helping to bring more industry and employment opportunities to the state. His term in office saw the establishment of the state's technical education system and its educational television network. He also called for and achieved significant increases in teachers' salaries, bringing them closer to the regional average. At the 1961 Governor's Conference on Business, Industry, Education and Agriculture in Columbia, S.C., he declared, "Today, in our complex society, education is the cornerstone upon which economic development must be built—and prosperity assured".
In 1962, during Hollings' term as governor, the Confederate battle flag was flown above the South Carolina Statehouse underneath the U.S. and state flags to protest desegregation, where it would remain for thirty-eight years. In 2000 the state legislature voted to move the flag from above the statehouse to a Confederate soldiers' monument in front of the building, where it remained until 2015.
In his last address to the General Assembly on January 9, 1963, ahead of the peaceful admission to Clemson University of its first black student, Harvey Gantt, Hollings declared: "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".
Hollings oversaw the last executions in South Carolina before the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Furman v. Georgia, which temporarily banned capital punishment. During his term, eight inmates were put to death by electric chair. The last was rapist Douglas Thorne, on April 20, 1962.
He sought the Democratic nomination for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1962 but lost to incumbent Olin D. Johnston.
United States Senator
Early Senate career
Johnston died on April 18, 1965. Hollings' successor as governor, Donald S. Russell, resigned in order to accept appointment to the Senate seat. In the summer of 1966, Hollings defeated Russell in the Democratic primary for the remaining two years of the term. He then narrowly won the special election on November 8, 1966, against the Democrat-turned-Republican Marshall Parker, and was sworn in shortly thereafter. He gained seniority on other newly elected U.S. senators who would have to wait until January 1967, to take the oath of office. In 1967, he was one of eleven senators who voted against the nomination of Thurgood Marshall to become the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. The following year, Hollings won the Senate seat for his first full term when he again defeated Marshall Parker but by a much wider margin.
For thirty-six years (until January 2003), he served alongside Republican Strom Thurmond, making them the longest-serving Senate duo ever. This also made Hollings the longest-serving junior senator ever, even though he had more seniority than all but a few of his colleagues. Thurmond and Hollings generally had a good relationship despite their sometimes sharp philosophical differences, and frequently collaborated on legislation and projects to benefit South Carolina. Their combined seniority gave South Carolina clout in national politics well beyond its relatively small population. Only Thurmond, Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy, Daniel Inouye, Carl Hayden, John Stennis, Ted Stevens, Pat Leahy, and Orrin Hatch have served longer in the Senate than did Hollings.
In 1970, Hollings authored The Case Against Hunger: A Demand for a National Policy, acknowledging the Reverend I.D. Newman and Sister Mary Anthony for opening his eyes to the despair caused by hunger and helping him realize that he must do something about it. Hollings made headlines the year before when he toured poverty-stricken areas of South Carolina, often referred to as his "Hunger Tours." In February 1969, Hollings testified as to what he had seen on his fact-finding tours in front of the Senate Select Committee on Hunger and Human Needs. Charleston's News and Courier (now The Post and Courier) reported that "Senators, members of the press corps and visitors packed in the hearing room watched and listened in disbelief as Hollings detailed dozens of tragically poignant scenes of human suffering in his state." Hollings recommended to the committee that free food stamps be distributed to the most needy, and just over a day later, Senator George McGovern announced that free food stamps would be distributed in South Carolina as part of a national pilot program for feeding the hungry.
In the 1970s, Hollings joined with fellow senators Kennedy and Henry M. Jackson in a press conference to oppose President Gerald Ford's request that Congress end Richard Nixon's price controls on domestic oil, which had helped to cause the gasoline lines during the 1973 Oil Crisis. Hollings said he believed ending the price controls (as was eventually done in 1981) would be a "catastrophe" that would cause "economic chaos."
Hollings unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the presidential election of 1984. Hollings' wit and experience, as well as his call for a budget freeze, won him some positive attention, but his relatively conservative record alienated liberal Democrats, and he was never really noticed in a field dominated by Walter Mondale, John Glenn and Gary Hart. Hollings dropped out two days after losing badly in New Hampshire, and endorsed Hart a week later. His disdain for his competitors sometimes showed. He notably referred to Mondale as a "lapdog" and to former Astronaut Glenn as "Sky King" who was "confused in his capsule."
Later Senate career
During the 1988 Presidential primaries, Hollings endorsed Jesse Jackson.
On October 15, 1991, he was one of seven Southern Democrats who voted to confirm the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court in a 52 to 48 vote, the narrowest margin of approval in more than a century.
Hollings remained very popular in South Carolina over the years, even as the state became increasingly friendly to Republicans at the national level. In his first three bids for a full term, he never dropped below 60 percent of the vote. In the 1992 election, however, he faced an unexpectedly close race against former Congressman Tommy Hartnett in what was otherwise a very good year for Democrats nationally. Hartnett had represented the Charleston area in Congress from 1981 to 1987, thus making him Hollings' congressman. His appeal in the Lowcountry – traditionally a swing region at the state level – enabled him to hold Hollings to only 50 percent of the vote.
In his last Senate race in 1998, Hollings faced Republican congressman Bob Inglis. One of the more heated and notable moments of the race was a newspaper interview in which Hollings referred to Inglis as a "goddamn skunk". Hollings was re-elected 52%–45%.
On January 7, 2003, Hollings introduced the controversial Universal National Service Act of 2006, which would require all men and women aged 18–26 (with some exceptions) to perform a year of military service.
On August 4, 2003, he announced that he would not run for re-election in November 2004. Republican Jim DeMint succeeded him.
As a senator, Hollings was noted for his support for legislation in the interests of the established media distribution industry (such as the proposed "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act"). His hard-line support of various client-side computer restrictions such as DRM and Trusted computing led the Fritz chip (a microchip that enforces such restrictions) to be nicknamed after him. Hollings also sponsored the Online Personal Privacy Act.
In his later career, Hollings was generally considered to be a moderate politically but was supportive of many civil rights bills. He voted for re-authorizing the Voting Rights Act in 1982. However, in 1967 he was one of the 11 senators who voted against the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice. Hollings later voted in favor of the failed nomination of Robert Bork and also for the successful nomination of Clarence Thomas.
On fiscal issues, he was generally conservative, and was one of the primary sponsors of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, an attempt to enforce limits on government spending.
Hollings and Howell Heflin of Alabama were the only two Democratic senators to vote against the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.
When Hollings embarked on tours of poor areas of South Carolina in 1968 and 1969 and testified as to his findings before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, he was accused of drawing unwanted attention to South Carolina when other states — North and South — also faced extreme poverty. Hollings knew South Carolina was not alone in its struggle and thought that if any politician was going to investigate hunger in South Carolina, it was going to at least be a South Carolinian. After a tour of an East Charleston slum, he said, "I don't want Romney and Kennedy coming here to look at my slums. As a matter of fact when I get caught up with my work, I think I may go look at the slums of Boston." For his efforts, Hollings was also accused of "scheming for the Negro vote." Hollings, who had seen plenty of white hunger and poverty and slums on his tours, responded, "You just don't make political points on hunger. The poor aren't registered to vote and they won't vote."
In 1981, Hollings had to apologize to fellow Democrat Howard Metzenbaum after Hollings referred to him as the "senator from B'nai B'rith" on the floor. Metzenbaum, who was Jewish, raised a point of personal privilege and Hollings's remarks were stricken from the record. Hollings himself was known as "the senator from Disney" for his support of the entertainment industry.
Hollings would become popular for the wrong reasons among fans of the MTV animated series Beavis and Butt-head after he said to Janet Reno, "We've got this… what is it… Buffcoat and Beaver or Beaver and something else. I haven't seen it, I don't watch it, but whatever it is, it was at 7, Buffcoat, and they put it on now at 10:30". After the remark, the mispronunciation of Beavis and Butt-head's names, particularly by characters the writers intended to ridicule, became a running gag on the show.
In 1993, Hollings told reporters that he attended international summits because, "Everybody likes to go to Geneva. I used to do it for the Law of the Sea conferences and you'd find those potentates from down in Africa, you know, rather than eating each other, they'd just come up and get a good square meal in Geneva." Hollings had previously caused controversy when responding to Yoshio Sakurauchi's commentary that Americans are lazy and illiterate. Hollings replied, "You should draw a mushroom cloud and put underneath it, 'Made in America by lazy and illiterate Americans and tested in Japan'."
Hollings penned a controversial editorial in the May 6, 2004, The Post and Courier, where he argued that Bush invaded Iraq possibly because "spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jew vote from the Democrats."
Post political life
In retirement, Hollings continues to write opinion editorials for newspapers around South Carolina and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. His opinion editorials are also published every week in EconomyInCrisis.org, an independent protectionist news blog. In 2008, the University of South Carolina Press published Making Government Work, a book authored by Hollings with Washington, D.C., journalist Kirk Victor, imparting Hollings' view on the changes needed in Washington. Among other things, the book recommends a dramatic decrease in the amount of campaign spending. It also attacks free trade policies as inherently destructive, suggesting that certain protectionist measures have built the United States, and only a few parties actually benefit from free trade, such as large manufacturing corporations.
Hollings started the Hollings Scholarship in 2005. This scholarship gives over 100 undergraduates from around the country a 10-week internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a monetary scholarship for the school year.
Hollings helped to establish the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, an organization which promotes dialogue between the United States and Turkey, the nations of the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia, and other countries with predominantly Muslim populations in order to open channels of communication, deepen cross-cultural understanding, expand people-to-people contacts, and generate new thinking on important international issues.
Hollings is on the Board of Advisors of the Charleston School of Law and is a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law there. He delivered the commencement address to the first graduating class there on May 19, 2007.
Senator Hollings played a Southern senator, Senator Marquand, whom Al Pacino attempts to woo in order to land the Democratic convention in the 1996 film City Hall.
Because of Strom Thurmond's longevity and length of service, Senator Hollings spent 36 years as the junior senator from South Carolina, despite having seniority over the vast majority of his peers. He finally became senior senator from South Carolina while serving alongside Lindsey Graham, but only for the last two years of his Senate service.
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