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Hollings Makes a Grand Gesture to Charleston and American History


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So admittedly, this is a very personal topic for me as he was my former boss, but thought I would share. I couldn't be prouder of my former boss!


Hollings makes a grand gesture to Charleston — and American — history

Mar 15 2015 6:00 am

Fritz Hollings was barely out of law school when he first crossed paths with U.S. District Judge Julius Waties Waring.

This was Charleston of the late 1940s, and already the judge was a controversial figure. Shunned by society for divorcing his wife and marrying a Yankee woman, Waring was quickly gaining a reputation as a jurist out of step with South Carolina values.

He had stopped the Democratic Party from closing its primaries to black voters, worked to equalize pay between black and white teachers, and even hired African-Americans to work in his courtroom.

Most lawyers — most people — despised Waring. Many of the state’s politicians wanted him impeached. But Hollings admired the judge.

“He was damned nice to me,” Hollings says. “He made sure young lawyers weren’t bumfuzzled or run over by the senior lawyers.”

Defying his critics, Waring kept pushing the city, and the state, into the 20th century. In 1951, he manipulated the judicial system to force the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a ruling on segregation. He wrote the dissent that became the basis for the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education.

In 1954, the highest court in the land used Waties Waring’s words to start the civil rights movement.

Waring was the pioneer, the man who changed America, Hollings says, although he remains unappreciated and largely unknown.

Few people realize that some of 20th century America’s most important history transpired in a courtroom that is now part of the Hollings Judicial Center at Meeting and Broad.

And Fritz Hollings is determined to change that. He wants the courthouse dedicated to him nearly 30 years ago renamed the J. Waties Waring Judicial Center.

“I just got the money for the building,” Hollings says. “He made history in it.”

The dilemma

By any measure, Fritz Hollings is a giant among 20th century politicians.

He was a state lawmaker, lieutenant governor and governor of South Carolina from 1959-1963. During his term, he raised teacher pay, created this state’s technical college system.

In 1966, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he turned the nation’s attention to the crippling hunger epidemic and poverty. He created the federal WIC program that ensured pregnant women and children got proper nutrition.

For nearly 40 years, he was a force of nature in the U.S. Senate.

Closer to home, he is responsible for the Mark Clark Expressway, the Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC and new barracks at his alma mater, The Citadel. He secured a large chunk of the money needed to build the Ravenel Bridge.

He also got funding to expand the 1896 federal courthouse and post office and, in 1988, it was named for him. He didn’t seek this recognition; Strom Thurmond put his name on it.

Hollings is grateful for the honor but believes it rightly belongs to Waring for changing the course of American history. He has been quietly suggesting this for nearly a year, ever since a group of lawyers and judges tried to right history and commissioned a statue to Waring on the courthouse grounds. That in itself was a grand gesture.

But no one in the legal community has wanted to endorse such a plan simply because they don’t want to slight Hollings, a historical figure himself.

In fact, no one would have even dreamed of such a thing had Hollings himself not been so insistent.

For the past year, everyone has politely refused to take any steps to rename the courthouse — no matter how many times the senator brought it up. No one wants to do anything that might tarnish the name of Fritz Hollings.

So last week, Hollings called Sen. Lindsey Graham and asked him to do it.

A historic gesture

Graham got the call on Thursday — and when Hollings is on the line, he answers.

When he heard what his former Senate colleague wanted, Graham was floored. He had never heard of such a thing.

“I was touched by it; it was incredible,” Graham says. “It speaks volumes about Sen. Hollings. Not many people in my business would do that.”

No they wouldn’t. But then, no one else is Hollings.

Graham is going to confer with Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Mark Sanford but, barring any objections, he’s going to start the process of changing the courthouse’s name.

As word slowly spread through the legal community last week, lawyers and judges were left awestruck by this selfless act.

Hollings has shown just how important he thinks it is for Waring to get credit for his incredible bravery. The senator has chosen history over vanity, and proven once again that he is a gentleman, a statesman and a son of South Carolina that makes us proud.

As Graham says, just asking to replace his name with Waring’s on the courthouse is a far better legacy for Hollings than having his name on a building.

But honestly, the Hollings legacy is already secure, whether his name is on that courthouse or not. And now more people may learn that Waties Waring is undoubtedly one of the greatest South Carolinians of the past century.

Fritz Hollings is one of the few people in Waring’s league — and he has proven it once again.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

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Fritz was great for the State of South Carolina. Much better than Thurmond.

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channoc...thanks for that. I didn't always agree with Sen. Hollings but he was a true Southern gentleman and put his country before politics.

Edited by Proud Tiger
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Thanks for sharing this article.

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Wow, what a classy thing to do. I loved to hear Fritz talked, he sounded like a caricature of a Southern senator.

Also, hat's off to Brian Hicks. That was a really well-written piece.

Edited by homersapien
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