A former state legislator who represented the Lowcountry in the Statehouse has died after a massive stroke, his family says.
Former State Rep. John Graham Altman died after spending nearly a week in the hospital, his daughter told WCSC-TV Tuesday.
The 79-year-old was hospitalized last week with a serious infection in his blood and kidneys and was receiving treatment in the intensive care unit at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Altman served five terms as a Republican in the S.C. House of Representatives until his retirement in 2007. However, he got his start in politics as a press secretary for Democratic Gov. Fritz Hollings a year after graduating from the University of South Carolina law school in 1958. He then practiced law before being elected to the Charleston County School Board in the late 1970s. He was able to channel enough support for a bid to represent the West Ashley region in the S.C. House of Representatives in 1997.
He was known as a firebranding conservative who was not afraid to make a “politically incorrect” point while defending his positions. After a court struck down a license plate with the slogan “Choose Life,” Altman introduced legislation to create another plate that said “Choose Death.” He also got brief national attention in 2005 after he became frustrated at a reporter who questioned why his committee had acted on a cockfighting bill, but not one dealing with domestic violence. Altman told the reporter she “wasn’t very bright” and that he did not “understand why women continue to go back around men who abuse them.”
WCSC mentioned in its obituary that Altman referred to some of his political opponents as members of the “militant homosexual lobby” and “racial hustlers.”
However, his colleagues remembered him as a man passionate about his conservative principles.
“John Graham Altman was a true conservative,” Speaker of the South Carolina House Bobby Harrell said in a statement. “You always knew where you stood with him, he never hesitated to say exactly what was on his mind. John was a dear friend of mine and we are all going to miss him.”
Fellow Charleston legislator State Rep. Chip Limehouse also honored Altman. “(He) will be remembered as a staunch conservative who fought hard for the things in which he believed. Sometimes he drew heavy criticism from the left but he never wavered from his strong conservative principles. John Graham was a gifted orator and talented public speaker with a heart of gold. He will be missed by many that called him colleague and friend.”
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.