The Hollings Special Collections Library was completed and dedicated to South Carolina former governor and longtime U.S. Senator Ernest Frederick “Fritz” Hollings (1922-2019) in 2010. The LEED gold certified building cost $18 million, and Hollings helped the university secure $14 million in federal funding. This library was built to host the South Carolina Political Collections, which first began as the Modern Political Collections in 1991. Hollings’ donation of his papers in 1989 and his encouragement of governors James West and James Edwards to do the same made the formation of the Political Collections possible.1
Hollings’ connections to the University of South Carolina:
- South Carolina governor, 1959-1963
- State legislator, 1949-1954
- U.S. senator, 1966-2005
- Helped secure funding to rebuild the university’s Baruch Institute for Marine Biology and Coastal Studies after hurricane damage in 1989.
- Donated his papers to the special collections library, seeded the political collections unit
- Helped the university secure $14 million in federal funding for the Hollings Special Collections Library building.
- Helped secure more than $6 million for the Arnold School of Public Health
- Advocated for the National Advocacy Center to be built at the university instead of elsewhere in the state.
- Publicly acknowledged his past as a segregationist politician, receiving disapproval from fellow segregationist politicians when he argued that the state had exhausted its legal challenges to segregation and must integrate peacefully.
- Went on “Hunger Tours” to draw attention to hunger and poverty in the state, helped South Carolina become part of a national pilot program for food stamps. Published The Case Against Hunger (1970).
- Heavily invested in legislation and funding for environmental conservation, particularly coastlines and oceans. NOAA established a scholarship in his name.
- Put forth the bill awarding posthumous Congressional Gold Medals for those involved in the Briggs v. Elliott case contesting segregation in South Carolina.
- Asked that the Hollings Judicial Center be renamed for civil rights judge J. Waites Waring.
Hollings was born in Charleston, S.C., on January 1, 1922, to Adolph G. Hollings and Wilhelmine Meyer. He graduated with a B.A. from The Citadel in 1942 and enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving in World War II in North Africa and France. Hollings was an officer in the 353rd and 457th Artillery units from 1942 to 1945, and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service as well as the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five Bronze Service Stars.2 Upon returning from the war, he entered the University of South Carolina School of Law and received his degree in only 21 months.
On March 30, 1946, Hollings married Martha Patricia Salley. They had four children: Michael, Helen, Patricia and Ernest.
From 1949 to 1954, Hollings represented Charleston County in the South Carolina House and became a protégé of Sol Blatt. He authored a major antilynching bill in 1951 and helped pass a 3% sales tax to finance public education. He served as speaker pro tempore from 1951 to 1954.
Hollings was elected lieutenant governor under Governor George Bell Timmerman in 1954. In 1955, he was appointed to the Hoover Commission on Organization of the U.S. Executive Branch.
In 1958, Hollings successfully ran for governor against Donald Russell. As governor, he worked to develop the states’ resources and programs, established the state’s technical education system, and South Carolina educational television network. He also increased teacher salaries statewide and expanded the State Development Board. In his final address as governor, on January 9, 1963 Hollings, who supported segregation, nonetheless urged that the legislature comply with integration measures once their legal challenges proved unsuccessful to “make clear South Carolina’s choice, a government of laws rather than a government of men.” Clemson peacefully integrated with the admission of Harvey Gantt later that month.
In 1962, Hollings unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. senate in the state’s Democratic primary. When Senator Olin Johnston died while in office, Hollings defeated Donald Russell in the special election to fill the remainder of Johnston’s term in 1966. Hollings then served in the U.S. Senate from 1967 to 2005. Throughout his career, Hollings was known as a moderate Democrat and fiscal conservative and was a strong supporter of John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1960. Unlike many Southern Democrats, Hollings never transitioned to the Republican party. As senator, Hollings became “an acknowledged authority on the budget, telecommunications, the environment and oceans, defense, trade, and space.” Hollings authored the Coastal Zone Management Act (1972), co-authored the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act (1985), and led in the creation of the WIC Program (supplemental food program for Women, Infants, and Children) and passage of the Telecommunications Act (1996).3 His U.S. Senate appointments included the committees on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Appropriations, and Budget. He was one of only two Democratic senators to vote against the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.
In 1969, Hollings conducted “Hunger Tours” of South Carolina to highlight the severe problems of the South Carolina poor and hungry. He published The Case Against Hunger in 1970 and remained an advocate for this issue throughout his life. South Carolina was almost immediately included in a national pilot program distributing food stamps as a result of his Hunger Tours.
In 1970, Hollings and his wife, Martha Salley, divorced. He married Rita “Peatsy” Liddy in 1971, who was an active advocate for her husband’s political career. She died in 2012.
Hollings campaigned for president in the Democratic primaries in 1983 but withdrew from the crowded field in March 1984. He opposed U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and claimed that he had been misled about Iraq’s possession of nuclear weapons when he voted “yes” for U.S. invasion. In 2003, he criticized the war with Iraq and likened it to the Vietnam War.4
Hollings was a strong advocate for “practical conservationism,” particularly with protecting America’s coasts and oceans. He played a major role in the establishment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1970 and was instrumental in not only the Coastal Zone Management Act but also the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972), Oceans Dumping Act (1976) and Sustainable Fisheries Act (1996). He also led efforts to pass the Oceans Act in 2000, which created the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, and authored the Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection act and the Oceans and Human Health Act. In 2005, NOAA established the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship in his honor to bolster undergraduate training in NOAA mission sciences and increase environmental literacy. Over 1,000 Hollings Scholarships have been awarded.5 Hollings also advocated for the Congaree Swamp National Monument to become a National Park in 2003.
Hollings retired from the senate in January 2005. In 2004, he helped establish the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, which promises dialogue between eh United States and countries with predominantly Muslim populations to maintain open channels of communication, dialogue, and cross-cultural understanding. In 2008, he authored Making Government Work with journalist Kirk Victor. It criticized campaign spending and attacked free trade measures.
Hollings died on April 6, 2019, at his home in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. He was 97. Joseph Biden, Jim Clyburn, and Henry McMaster all gave remarks at his funeral held at The Citadel.
Hollings and Segregation
Hollings began his career as an orthodox segregationist, defending school segregation and often associating the NAACP with communism and called it “against our way of life in the South.”6 During his political campaigns he frequently criticized the Supreme Court and the Brown v. Board of Education decision, calling its passage “a day that will live in legal infamy.” When he ran for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina in 1954, his opponents ran ads claiming that “Hollings is for integration.”7 Perhaps in response to these attack ads, in 1957, Hollings accused the Supreme Court of acting “as a psychiatric clinic for mental and social disturbances.” He claimed that the Court was acting against the Constitution—“the drafters…whether they died readily over the principle of no taxation without representation, never dreamed that today they would have forced upon them public school systems without representation…The Communist conspiracy that advocates by force the overthrow of our Democracy today is treason." In striking down the constitutionality of separate but equal, “the Court struck down the Southern way of life” and “disregarded the cardinal point in the creed of the jurist—stare decisis—and instead adopted the legal approach of the NAACP, the ADA, and the Communist Party.” He defended segregation in South Carolina: “Our System of separate but equal facilities comes as a matter of history, culture and economic background. We believe that public schools are intended for education and not integration, and, for my part, schools will always remain segregated in South Carolina.” He concluded by asserting that the Brown decision was a “clear and present danger” that, if allowed to continue, would take away “the sovereignty of the states…The South’s fight is to prevent America’s destruction.”8
In his first address as governor in 1959, Hollings praised the state assembly’s Gressette Committee, formed to resist integration efforts: "The Gressette Committee has done and is doing an excellent job. None of us condones violence and all of us are grateful that South Carolina has been spared the disorders attending other states in their school problems.”9 In his inaugural address as Governor, he claimed that “the Constitution of the United States has been amended illegally by the Supreme Court and today we struggle to recognize the original. Until the Constitution was lawfully amended, he asserted, he would refuse “to integrate our people during the next four years.” “The Negroes of our state,” he claimed, “feel that their Governor and General Assembly are doing everything possible to provide them the best educational program…As a practical matter, this can only be done in the segregated pattern, and for those who would be integration destroy the education, culture, opportunity, and friendship of those races, I simply state that our position of determined resistance remains unchanged.” Finally, “The segregation stand of the South,” he declared, “is symbolic of the stand of our forefathers against the oppression of government when this great republic was founded.”10
In an address to the South Carolina Education Association, Hollings stated that the expanded school financing program he spearheaded was successful due to the “threat of integration.”11 When encouraging South Carolinians to vote Democrat in 1960, he associated Republicans with integration and liberalism:
“I don't want to be in the same party with Jacob Javits, who said he would come to the South personally and investigate our methods of discrimination and report back to the people of New York…I don't want to pay dues, either, to Arthur Fleming who says that Virginia’s position in maintaining private segregated schools is indefensible. And I want nothing at all to do with William Rogers who is a professional South hater and who has used and misused the powers of the Attorney General's Office to crucify the South on a cross of ebony…They don't tell you that when you join the Republican club you will be sitting with…Martin Luther King."12
He continued this address by proudly claiming that Presidential Candidate John F. Kennedy had “slapped” down civil rights bills in Congress, and that:
“The American Negro has found a new promised land and they’ve started across a Red Sea [tying civil rights to communism] to get there…All over the South we are withstanding the efforts of the Republican administration to integrate our schools and our private businesses. The next time you see on the streets of Charleston a demonstration for integration just remember what Supreme Court ruled that our laws were illegal, just what Attorney General is enforcing that ruling, and just which administration is giving encouragement to demonstrations, and even riots…And remember, too, that this it is an administration that can send troops to Little Rock--but not to Cuba.”13
By the end of his term as governor, however, Hollings acknowledged that South Carolina’s resistance to the decision had run its course. In his final address as governor to the general assembly on January 9, 1963, Hollings urged that South Carolina peacefully comply with integration:
“We have all argued that the Supreme Court decision of May 1954 is not the law of the land. But everyone must agree that it is the fact of the land. Interposition, sovereignty, legal motions, personal defiance have all be applied to constitutionalize the law of the land. And all attempts have failed. As we meet, South Carolina is running out of courts. If and when every legal remedy has been exhausted, this General Assembly must make clear South Carolina's choice, a government of laws rather than a government of men. As determined as we are, we of today must realize the lesson of one hundred years ago, and move on for the good of South Carolina and our United States. This should be done with dignity. It must be done with law and order. It is a hurdle that brings little progress to either side. But the failure to clear it will do us irreparable harm.”14
Clemson was then peacefully integrated that same month. Hollings was not popular for this sentiment, and his segregationist gubernatorial successor Donald Russell stated South Carolina’s dedication to opposing integration efforts. State senator and segregationist L. Marion Gressette also disagreed with Hollings and remained devoted to segregation. In 2008, he wrote on his time as governor on race issues: “I was Mister-In-Between. The governor had to appear to be in charge; yet the realities were not on his side…I returned to my basic precept ... the safety of the people is the supreme law. I was determined to keep the peace and avoid bloodshed.”15 Hollings also blamed politics for his vote against Thurgood Marshall as a Supreme Court Justice in 1967. In 2004, Hollings stated that this was because “I couldn’t get re-elected…That’s the honest answer. If I had voted for him, I might as well withdraw from the race. It was political.”16
Despite Hollings’ cooperationist stance, he frequently opposed rapid integration movements, school choice, and forced busing in his addresses to the U.S. Senate.17 “Integration now,” he claimed in 1969, caused “chaos,” and “for an institution to be public, does not necessarily mean that its composition must be racially balanced. No one would contend that the Senate is unconstitutional because we have only one Negro member.” He then introduced a “freedom of choice” amendment with Senator Stennis from Mississippi and segregationist Richard B. Russell of Georgia that argued that “each child under freedom of choice should be allowed, and should not be denied admission, into a non-segregated, non-dual school…There is no reason to tear up the public school system of America just because a recently invented unitary school is not available to all.” The Supreme Court ruled these freedom of choice strategies unconstitutional.18
Later in his career, Hollings supported many civil rights bills. Hollings voted to re-authorize the Voting Rights Act in 1982. He also “appointed the first black to head a Senate committee; the first in the South to be a director of the Farm Security Agency; the first to be a U.S. marshal; the first to be a U.S. district judge in the South and the first black female district judge.” In 1988, Hollings endorsed Reverend Jesse Jackson for president, and voted to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1991.
In a 2003 piece attacking the lukewarm efforts of the Republican party towards racial equality, Hollings defended his own resume on civil rights, claiming that opponents were “attacking my words while ignoring my record.” He reminded readers that his decision to stay in the Democratic race in 1948 rather than drop out in protest of the new inclusion of Black voters in the Democratic primaries was met with criticism. After his election that year, Hollings described a visit to a Black school in Charleston that “shocked” him with its levels of “discrimination” and inspired him to successfully champion a sales tax that equalized Black and white schools. As governor, he presided over the sit-ins and marches of the Civil Rights Movement, “without the loss of life or anyone hurt.” He concluded the piece by criticizing the actions of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush for proposing to weaken or eliminate social programs like food stamps, school lunches, Medicaid, and housing, which would disproportionately disadvantage minority groups. He also criticized Louisiana for misleading Black voters and the Republican Party paying “African American youth $75 to hold signs in black neighborhoods.” George W. Bush’s silence on these issues, Hollings claimed, were not surprising considering “he revived his faltering campaign in 2000 by going to segregationist Bob Jones University.”19
In 2002, he gave the address at a reunion of the descendants of the Briggs v. Elliott case, a 1952 case in South Carolina that challenged segregation and was later combined into the Brown v. Board case, thanking them for their efforts: “We are more than ever the land of the free and the home of the brave because of Briggs v. Elliott. And I thank you all very much.” He recalled that he was appointed by the South Carolina governor “of counsel” to witness the arguments Brown v. Board in 1954, and recalled the NAACP attorney George E. C. Hayes’ argument that “as black soldiers we went to the war to fight on the front lines in Europe, and when we come home we have to sit on the back of the bus.” Upon hearing this argument, Hollings said “I knew exactly what he was talking about. And I said this segregation] was wrong” and called it his “epiphany” moment. Despite this recollection, Hollings does not mention his avid criticism of the decision as a “day that would live in infamy” three years later, nor his continued dedication to segregation until his final address as governor in 1963. Instead, he mentioned that “there was arguments back and forth on how we could comply with this order with all deliberate speed and not start chaos all over the land,” framing the speed of the decision as the main cause of issue in South Carolina over the next decade.20
In this address, Hollings stated that when he became governor, he “started working on other areas that needed to be integrated,” recalling that the state went from 34 Black sheriffs in the early 1960s to about 500 in 2002. He then discussed his actions infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina as governor, which “literally broke up and locked up the Ku Klux Klan” by the time Clemson was integrated in 1963. He then mentioned that his hunger trips in 1969 were taken with the NAACP, which resulted in food stamps programs, the school lunch programs, and the women infants and children’s feeding program. Hollings was also the first Senator to employ a Black staff director of any committee with the employment of Ralph Everett. As of 2002, Hollings claimed, “I have more minority appointments to West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academies than anybody.” 21
In 2004, Congressional Gold Medals were posthumously awarded to Levi Pearson, Joseph DeLaine, and Harry and Eliza Briggs for their roles in the Briggs v. Elliott decision. Hollings put forth the bill, and Jim Clyburn helped gather support in the House.22 Hollings also began calling for the Confederate flag to be taken down from the Statehouse as early as the 1990s. He noted that the Legislature resolved to put up the flag during his term as governor, but as governor he never signed this resolution.23
On October 2, 2015, the Hollings Judicial Center in Charleston was renamed the J. Waites Waring Judicial Center for Waring’s career against segregation that forced him from his home state. Hollings himself asked Jim Clyburn and Congress to remove his name from the Charleston courthouse.24
In his eulogy of Hollings, Joseph Biden briefly mentioned Hollings’ segregationist
past by stating “people can change…We can learn from the past and build a better future.”
Biden and Hollings were close friends in the Senate for thirty two years, and Biden
credited Fritz and Peatsy as two of the “first people to bring me back from that black
hole I was in” when his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972.25 Jim Clyburn’s eulogy stated “Thank God a man can grow. Fritz grew and I grew along
Hollings at the University of South Carolina
Hollings enrolled in the University of South Carolina’s law school one day after he mustered out of the U.S. army after his service in World War II. He graduated after 21 months.
As governor, Hollings appointed the Governors Advisory Committee on Higher Education to improve the quality of South Carolina’s colleges and universities. He urged the University of South Carolina to hire a team of outside consultants to conduct a comprehensive management survey to help prepare the university for future growth in 1959. He also advocated for a ten percent faculty salary increase as part of his 1960 “State of the State’ address, and supported President Sumwalt to acquire higher salaries for the faculty. He was successful in acquiring pay raises across the board.27
Hollings was also an active supporter of President Jones’s revolutionary proposal to hire “prestige professors” to bring in grant money and outstanding graduate students, and catapult the University of South Carolina into a nationally ranked research university. In his farewell address as governor, Hollings said that South Carolina had “one shot” to prevent it being relegated to the 50th state on every nationwide list, and that shot was the “outstanding professor” which would have a “snowball effect” on funding and innovation, particularly in reference to the space program.28
Hollings was involved in the formative years of supporting the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, which helped develop the research infrastructure at the states’ three research universities. This funding has recruited many science and math faculty. Hollings helped secure funding to rebuild the university’s Baruch Institute for Marine Biology and Coastal Studies after it was damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. He was a longtime supporter of the Baruch Institute and provided support for scientists involved in digitally mapping South Carolina’s coasts for the National Resources Conservation Service. Since the inception of NOAA’s Hollings scholarship program, fifty university students have been named recipients — a University of South Carolina scholar for every year of its existence except one.29
In the 1990s, Hollings encouraged the U.S. Department of Justice to create a center
for training federal prosecutors. The resulting National Advocacy Center on the university’s
campus is administered by the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys and conducts an average
of 250 training programs and conferences annually. President Harris Pastides joked
that the university became the home of the center after Hollings objected to it going
to Myrtle Beach with a “Hell no, they’ll spend all their time on the golf course.”30 Hollings also helped to secure more than $6 million for the construction of the Arnold
School Public Health’s Research Center, which was completed in 2006. 31
In 1989, Hollings donated his papers to the South Caroliniana Library and encouraged governors James West and James Edwards to do the same. This donation led to the founding of the Modern Political Collections in 1991, which is now called the South Carolina Political Collections. He helped the university secure $14 million in federal funds for a new center for political collections. The LEED gold building was dedicated to Hollings upon its construction in 2010. It cost $18 million dollars and is 50,000 square feet. The dedication ceremony included remarks by Jim Clyburn and Joe Biden. Lindsey Graham, former governor James Edwards, and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley were in attendance.
1 The dedication ceremony can be found in full here: Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library Dedication Ceremony
2 Once A Soldier ... Always A Soldier: Soldiers in the 108th Congress (Arlington, Virginia: Association of the United States Army, 2003), 16.
4 Fritz Hollings, “A Precarious Step Toward War,” Straight Talk from U.S. Senator Fritz Hollings, November 1990. Found in the Ernest F. Hollings Papers, South Carolina Political Collections, Columbia, South Carolina. Hereafter SCPC. Ernest F. Hollings, “Misled and undermanned: the truth on Iraq” The State 09 Nov 2003, D3.
6 Robert D. McFadden, “Ernest Hollings, 97, a South Carolina Senator Who Evolved, Is Dead,” The New York Times 06 Apr 2019.
7 Fritz Hollings, “Jury’s out on substantive racial reform by GOP,” Charleston Post and Courier 13 Jan 2003. Hollings later cites this as evidence that he was slowly fighting for racial equality despite the climate in his state.
8 Hollings, “Address, Hampton Watermelon Festival,” 27 Jun 1957, Hollings Papers, SCPC.
9 Hollings, “Address to the General Assembly of South Carolina, 21 Jan 1959, Hollings Papers, SCPC.
10 Hollings, “Inaugural Address,” 20 Jan 1959, Hollings Papers, SCPC.
11 Hollings, “Address before the South Carolina Education Association,” 13 Mar. 1959, Hollings Papers, SCPC.
12 Hollings, “Draft of Speech before Civic Clubs of Charleston, 06 Sep 1960, Hollings Papers, SCPC.
13 Ibid. This reference to Little Rock is about the presence of the National Guard to protect the Black Americans integrating schools in Arkansas.
14 Hollings, “Address to the General Assembly of South Carolina,” 09 Jan. 1963, Hollings Papers, SCPC.
15 Meg Kinnard, “Emotional eulogies highlight funeral of SC’s Fritz Hollings,” ABCNews 16 Apr 2019.
16 McFadden, “Ernest Hollings, 97, a South Carolina Senator Who Evolved, Is Dead,” The New York Times
17 Hollings, “Obey the Law,” Ernest F. Hollings Reports to South Carolina 28 Aug. 1970, Hollings Papers, SCPC.
18 Hollings, “Speech of Speech Delivered on Freedom of Choice School Desegregation,” 02 Feb 1969. Hollings Papers, SCPC.
19 Hollings, “Jury’s out on substantive racial reform by GOP,” Post and Courier
20 Hollings, “Remarks, Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring Levi Pearson, Reverend Joseph DeLaine, and Harry and Eliza Briggs,” 08 Sep 2004, Hollings Papers, SCPC.
23 Hollings, “Jury’s out…”
24 “Courthouse Renamed for Civil Rights Hero,” United States Courts 14 Oct. 2015.
25 Jonathan Martin, “Biden, at Hollings Funeral, Talks About How ‘People Can Change,” The New York Times 16 Apr. 2019.
26 Kinnard, “Emotional eulogies highlight funeral of SC’s Fritz Hollings.”
27 Henry H. Lesesne, A History of the University of South Carolina, 1940-2000 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001): 151, 155, 175.
28 Lesesne, 159. Jones’ proposal failed for many reasons, one of which was the incoming governor Russell’s rivalry with Hollings.
30 Robert Behre, “Hollings Library gets lively launch” Post and Courier 19 Aug. 2020.
31 Horn, “Hollings’ legacy lives on at UofSC”