Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, the silver-haired Democrat who helped shepherd South Carolina through desegregation as governor and went on to serve six terms in the US Senate, has died, the AP reports. He was 97. A spokesman said Hollings died at his home on the Isle of Palms early Saturday. Hollings, whose long and colorful political career included an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, retired from the Senate in 2005, one of the last of the larger-than-life Democrats who dominated politics in the South. He had served 38 years and two months, making him the eighth longest-serving senator in US history. Nevertheless, Hollings remained the junior senator from South Carolina for most of his term.
In his final Senate speech, made in 2004, Hollings lamented that lawmakers came to spend much of their time raising money for the next election, calling money "the main culprit, the cancer on the body politic." Hollings was a sharp-tongued orator whose rhetorical flourishes in the deep accent of his home state enlivened many a Washington debate, but his influence in Washington never reached the levels he hoped. He sometimes blamed that failure on his background, rising to power as he did in the South in the 1950s as the region bubbled with anger over segregation. Hollings campaigned against desegregation when running for governor in 1958 and later pleaded with the legislature to peacefully accept integration of public schools and the admission of the first black student to Clemson University. Shortly afterward, Clemson was peacefully integrated.
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