Charleston International Airport atrium

The terminal at Charleston International Airport will be named for the late U.S. Sen. Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings after a near-unanimous vote by the airport board Thursday. Warren L. Wise/Staff

Visitors to Charleston International soon will be greeted with a new name on the passenger terminal.

The board that operates the airport voted almost unanimously Thursday to name the main building after the late U.S. Sen. Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, who died April 6 and was laid to rest Tuesday.

After a half-hour, closed-door session to discuss legal issues related to the proposal, 10 of the 11 members voted in favor of the measure. Keith Benjamin of the city of Charleston, representing Mayor John Tecklenburg, said the mayor asked him to abstain on his behalf.

"The mayor wanted it to be the Ernest F. Hollings Charleston International Airport, and when it became clear that it was just the terminal, he decided to abstain," Tecklenburg spokesman Jack O'Toole said.

The next step will be to place new signage at the entrance to the airport and on the covered walkways in front of the terminal as well as creating an interior display in a prominent location about Hollings' life and legacy, said board member Helen Hill.

"I look forward to this board designing something to let the people know what he gave to this community," she said.

Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey, who once worked as a volunteer with College Republicans for Hollings about 20 years ago, led the effort to honor the former governor and longtime Democratic senator.

"Sen. Hollings meant a lot to me and my family," Summey said. "He is someone whom I have always held in high regard."

Summey said the airport benefited greatly from Hollings' vision.

"Opportunities like the new air service(s) we’ve garnered in the last decade were made possible by the groundwork of his long-term commitment to aviation,” he said.

Summey credited Hollings for helping to boost local air service and for securing federal funding for the parking deck at Charleston International.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Summey said Hollings sponsored Homeland Security legislation that led to the modern Transportation Security Administration airport safety measures.

He also said the late lawmaker helped the Aviation Authority secure access to the runways, which are owned by the Air Force.

"He did a lot for Charleston International Airport and for Charleston," Summey said.

Other board members extolled the virtues of Hollings as well with brief remarks.

“Sen. Hollings’ public service touched generations of South Carolinians and will be felt for generations to come," board chairman Walter Hundley said. "Naming the newly-renovated terminal after him ensures all who travel through Charleston International are reminded of this great statesman’s contributions."

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Former longtime Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who once sat on the airport board, recognized Hollings as well.

“This entire week has been about celebrating Sen. Hollings’ life and achievements," Riley said. "I applaud the Authority board for recognizing his enduring legacy in such a meaningful way."

Charleston International Airport (copy) (copy) (copy)

The terminal at Charleston International Airport will bear the name of the late U.S. Sen. Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings following a vote Thursday by the airport board. File/Staff

State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, introduced a bill in February to name the entire airport after Hollings, but airport CEO Paul Campbell, a Republican state senator from Goose Creek, believed that went too far and said the issue should be taken up by the airport board, not state lawmakers.

Campbell had suggested naming another part of the airport, such as the new parking garage that's under construction, after Hollings, but others believed the late senator deserved something more dignified.

That led to Thursday's resolution.

The board did not want to rebrand the airport, saying the Charleston International name is widely known.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.