“I learned what not to say from Fritz Hollings,” says Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. “I learned both,” says Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden, who is known for occasionally putting his foot in his mouth, says he was mentored by Hollings in many ways–including his rhetoric. As much a roast as a tribute, Biden and University leaders launched a few zingers at Hollings. But in a library filled with hundred of political dignitaries, the event honored the former senator and governor who led the state through desegregation, instituted the state technical education system and introduced environmental conversation into national debate.
“He is still relentless,” says Biden, who claims the senator who served for 47 years regularly calls him in Washington, D.C. to demand explanations of “what is going on up there.”
“Damn Joe, what the hell are you folks doing?” is how Biden describes the beginning of a Fritz Hollings phone call.
In his speech, Biden called him,”The most significant national figure to come out of this state in the breadth and scope of what he has done.”
Biden says it was Sen. Hollings and his wife, Peatsy, who “changed his life” after Biden’s wife and child were killed. “She put her arms around me, literally and figuratively.” Then, when Biden met his current wife, Jill, the Hollings officially welcomed her to D.C.
When Hollings took the podium he invited Senator Lindsey Graham to join him on the stage. This gesture prompted a standing ovation. He quipped,”We integrate minorities–and majorities.”
And in a friendly jab to the Vice President, Hollings said, “Today is a big blinking deal.”