April 6 (UPI) -- Former longtime U.S. Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, also a past South Carolina governor, died Saturday, his family said. He was 97.
Hollings' family announced his death in a statement obtained by the Post and Courier newspaper.
"One of South Carolina's greatest lions roars no more," South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement posted to his Twitter account. "Fierce, bold, and robust -- the sounds of Fritz Hollings' vision and drive for the Palmetto State will continue to be heard by generations."
Serving in the Senate from 1966 to 2005, Hollings was known for his progressive stance on social issues, though he took more conservative positions on issues such as federal spending, defense and trade. He helped create the federal Women, Infants and Children food program, commonly known as WIC, and was part of efforts to usher in various environmental regulations. Hollings was involved in passing the Coastal Zone Management Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and Oceans Dumping Act in the 1970s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Though Hollings supported segregation early in his career, he also created South Carolina's anti-lynching law and, as governor in the late 1950s and early 1960s, oversaw the integration of Clemson University and other public schools.
"Fritz Hollings was truly a man in full -- a history-making governor, a titan of the U.S. Senate, and a peerless friend to all who were fortunate enough to know him," said John Tecklenburg, mayor of Hollings' native Charleston, in a post on Facebook. "Our state and nation have lost a real giant."
Hollings -- also a World War II veteran, a former lieutenant governor and past speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives -- spent most of his time in the Senate as South Carolina's junior senator to Republican Strom Thurmond.