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Remembering Former Sen. Ernest 'Fritz' Hollings


Fritz Hollings has died, the former South Carolina governor and six-term U.S. senator. He was 97. Here's Fritz Hollings giving his farewell speech on the Senate floor in 2004.


FRITZ HOLLINGS: And if you really ought to be enriched - your life, period, right across the board - the best postgraduate course and everything you can possibly take is to run and be in the Senate.

SIMON: Mr. Hollings also ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984. We're joined now by Kirk Victor, who collaborated with Fritz Hollings on a memoir. And he covered him as a correspondent with National Journal. Thanks very much for being with us, Mr. Victor.

KIRK VICTOR: It's an honor to be with you, Scott. I've listened to you for years. Although, very sad circumstances.

SIMON: He was - well, the word colorful doesn't quite cover it, does it?

VICTOR: It really does not. He was quick-witted, sharp. His acerbic tongue, I think, sometimes got more coverage than his accomplishments. Just as an example, in one of his Senate races back in '86, his opponent, a guy named McMaster, challenged him to a drug test. And Senator Hollings said, I'll take a drug test if you will take an IQ test.

SIMON: (Laughter) Mercy. Well, and you point out there's obviously a couple of other instances in which maybe he was just a little too colorful, right?

VICTOR: A little too colorful, yes, indeed.

SIMON: He - when he first ran for governor of South Carolina, he campaigned against desegregation. But he changed his mind in public, in office, didn't he?

VICTOR: He did. I mean, one of the most remarkable things he did actually was at the end of his gubernatorial term, when he didn't have to, but he gave an address to the state legislature and said we have run out of courts. The rule of law is supreme. We cannot essentially stand in the courthouse door. We can't support segregation anymore.

And this is when African-American Harvey Gantt was seeking and had been admitted to Clemson. And of course, there was great resistance throughout the South.

SIMON: It's impossible to sum up 38 years in the Senate, but I put you in that position anyway.

VICTOR: Well, that is a very difficult position to be in because he did so much. He was a deficit hawk. He spoke his mind. He was just - he fought hunger, helped create the the WIC program - Women, Infants and Children program. He was a proud protectionist in some ways on trade. So it's very difficult to sum up what a remarkable career he had.

SIMON: And there was a courthouse named for him. He took an unusual position in his later years, didn't he?

VICTOR: He did. That was just four years ago in 2015 with the Hollings Judicial Center in Charleston. And he wanted to have it renamed for a courageous judge, Judge Waring, who in the '40s and '50s ruled against segregation and got death threats and was shunned in Charleston and throughout the state. And Hollings took - and Senator Hollings took the unprecedented move of urging that courthouse be renamed. Stunning. And Senator Lindsey Graham, vice president - then Vice President Biden - and others spoke and just were very moved by an incredible gesture by, really, a very great senator.

SIMON: Kirk Victor on the death of former South Carolina governor and six-term U.S. senator Fritz Hollings. Thanks so much for being with us.

VICTOR: Thank you so much for having me on, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.