HOLLINGS (copy) (copy)

Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., gestures as he announces that he that will not seek re-election, during a news conference, Monday, Aug. 4, 2003, in Columbia, S.C. Hollings was first elected to the Senate in 1966 (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

They called him the "senator from central casting."

Former U.S. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings looked the part. He acted the part. He sounded the part. But his record and legacy are much deeper than that.

He is toward the top of the list with his 38 years of Senate service – the eighth longest in the history of the Senate.

He was one of the great environmentalists of our time. He established and preserved the ACE Basin in South Carolina, a beautiful place along the coast where three major rivers converge. He helped establish the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has done much to protect our oceans. Our beaches, our oceans, our mountains and our rivers are better off for his service.

He was part of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act, as he was always trying to keep our fiscal house in order.

He was a champion of the military. Being a WWII veteran who was willing to risk his life and die for his country, he looked out for those in uniform.

He was a tireless advocate in the fight against hunger. He was trying to combat hunger and poverty before it was cool. He traveled all over the world to spread the good news about America. After Senate life, he established the Hollings Center for International Dialogue to create exchanges in dialogue between the United States and mostly Muslim populations. He was ahead of his time in understanding that for us to win the war on terror, we have to side with people in the faith who reject radical Islam.

Sen. Hollings, along with his long-time colleague Sen. Strom Thurmond, were giants of their time. They made a difference for our state and the nation as a whole.

As governor of South Carolina, he shepherded our state through very turbulent times during the civil rights movement. South Carolina had problems, but they paled in comparison to those in many other states because of his leadership. He was the father of South Carolina’s technical school system, which is the envy of the nation.

Even today, there are Hollings stories circulating in the Senate. Former senators, staffers, anyone he ran into while serving there, will tell you that Fritz was a force of nature. He had strong opinions and he would share them with you -- whether you asked for them or not.

He was prepared. He knew what he was talking about. He was a fighter for his causes.

When Sen. Thurmond retired, I was honored to be able to take his place, and Fritz was my senior senator for two years. I appreciate, recognize and thank him for what he did in helping me become established in the Senate.

We didn’t often agree on policy, but he could not have been a better friend. I often joked that I spent half my time trying to interpret what he was saying on the Senate floor. He had a Charleston accent that even I couldn’t understand at times and I only caught about every third word.

Nobody enjoyed their job more than Sen. Hollings. Nobody was ever better at it, and when necessary, he was able to move mountains.

No one ever loved South Carolina more than Fritz Hollings. He served professionally, effectively, and with love and passion. He was a faithful servant and his legacy for the people of South Carolina will be enduring.

Lindsey Graham is a Republican U.S. senator representing South Carolina.