CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Politicians, colleagues, admirers and friends attended funeral services Tuesday for South Carolina’s Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings, one of the last larger-than-life Democrats who once dominated the politics of the South.
Hollings, who served the state as governor and senator, passed away April 6 at his home on the Isle of Palms. He was 97.
It was an emotional ceremony at Summerall Chapel at The Citadel in Charleston and a true testament to the man Hollings was. Former Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime friend of the late senator, was among the speakers.
The afternoon was spent remembering not only his character but his leadership as well.
“He saw something in me that I wasn’t sure existed, but he believed in me,” Biden recalled.
Biden, who worked alongside Hollings for nearly three decades, was one of three people who delivered a eulogy at his funeral.
“I had the great honor of sitting next to him for 32 years,” he said. “I learned more about The Citadel than probably some people who went to The Citadel—he talked about it all the time and it was a great honor for his family to ask me to be one of the people to say a few things about him.”
Biden lost his wife and daughter to a car crash very early in his life when he was just a young senator. He credits Hollings with keeping him there, crediting him with the man he has become today.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster also delivered a message Tuesday.
“One of the most memorable moments came when my team hatched the great idea of challenging Fritz to a drug test,” he said. “He instantly responded that he would take a drug test if I would take an IQ test.”
Among them were incredible words from Congressman James Clyburn. “I can only say today thank God, a man can grow. Fritz grew and I grew along with him,” he said.
All who spoke about Hollings said he put his state and the needs of the people he served be for himself.
“He was a guy who still had a vision about the future. He wasn’t stuck somewhere incapable of learning. He changed, he changed so South Carolina changed and I think he showed leadership when it was needed,” said former Secretary of State, John Kerry.
As Hollings was brought out on one last trip to his final resting place, the hundreds of people he influenced, helped, and taught said his words and lessons will live on.
“He was the epitome of a great 20th century U.S. Senator,” said former South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges.
“I think it’s kind of a challenge to me and all of us to do better—to do better with our lives,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “He was that kind of a force.”
Hollings’ long and colorful political career included an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. When he retired from the Senate in 2005, Hollings had served 38 years and two months, making him the eighth longest-serving senator in U.S. history.