Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, then-governor of South Carolina, campaigns with John Kennedy during the 1960 presidential campaign and helped JFK win South Carolina and six other southern states. Before he left office, Hollings would reverse himself on segregation and call for integration. He went on to serve in the Senate from 1966 until 2005. (CQ Roll Call file photo).
Before the late Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings was elected to what would become a distinguished congressional career, the South Carolina Democrat reversed himself on the defining issue in Southern politics: segregation.
Running for governor in 1958, Hollings opposed integration, a keystone battle in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision desegregating public schools. But by the end of his term, he said it was time for the South to change, taking a step out of line with many of his Democratic colleagues in the region.
“He had made the turn, and to his credit, [in] 1962 in the South,” Kirk Victor, co-author of Hollings’ book “Making Government Work,” says in the latest Political Theater Podcast. “The Legislature would’ve followed him either way. Any which way he went.”
Hollings, who died on April 6, was laid to rest in his native South Carolina on April 16.