There were light moments about Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings' famously booming voice.

There were solemn moments about sacrifice and coming to terms with South Carolina's racially divided past.

But the former South Carolina governor and U.S. senator was mostly remembered for a long, full life of public service aimed at making the state and nation better for all.

"Every senator represents his or her state, but few embody what that state is," said former Vice President Joe Biden, who was Hollings' seat mate for 32 years in the U.S. Senate when he was a senator from Delaware.

"He was South Carolina," Biden went on to add. "With every breath he brought hope to so many in this state and around the country."

Hollings died April 6 at age 97 at his home on the Isle of Palms, some 15 years after leaving Washington, D.C.

His political career and influence spanned the decades beginning from post-World War II to the current war on terror and the still-evolving communications revolution.

Along the way he was credited for launching a war on hunger, boosting the state's technical college system, expanding state and global commerce, and spawning the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among other diverse creations of government.

Tuesday's funeral at The Citadel's Summerall Chapel in downtown Charleston was a who's who of South Carolina and national figures. Jill Biden, the vice president's wife, traveled with him.

INSIDE Ernest "Fritz" Hollings

Citadel cadets salute as the hearse carrying former South Carolina Gov. and longtime U.S. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings enters the campus for his funeral service at The Citadel's Summerall Chapel on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Brad Nettles/Staff

Former Democratic U.S. Sens. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and John Kerry of Massachusetts, who both served alongside Hollings, were there, as were former S.C. Democratic Govs. Dick Riley and Jim Hodges.

Former first lady Jenny Sanford attended, as did Nancy Thurmond, wife of deceased Republican U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Also on hand were a collection of hundreds of family members as well as judges, state lawmakers, former staff, academics, Citadel representatives and Democrats who supported Hollings over his 38 years in Washington.

Biden made note of Hollings' love for The Citadel, where he graduated from in 1942 before heading off to World War II.

bagpipes Hollings funeral.jpg

Citadel bagpipers performed near the entrance of Summerall Chapel prior to the funeral for former S.C. Gov. and U.S. Sen. Ernest Hollings on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Wade Spees/Staff

"He talked about The Citadel like it was in the literal sense, his citadel," Biden said. It meant "everything to him."

Hollings was an early Biden supporter in his Delaware Senate bid, and Biden acknowledged the support Hollings and wife, Peatsy, gave in encouraging him to stay in politics after his first wife and daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972.

"He was there when I was on top of the world," said Biden, who is mulling a White House bid in the coming weeks. "He was also there when I was at the bottom."

He went on to stress that one example of Hollings' do-the-right-thing leadership was when he launched a fight against hunger at a time when bad publicity would have worked to bring harm to the state's image through his book and effort "The Case Against Hunger."

Hollings was one of the first "to make clear that nutrition and learning were as inseparable as the bond between a mother and child," Biden said.

In more recent times, Biden said Hollings actually forecast the "Green New Deal," pushed by Democratic progressives before they came up with it, in the way he fought for clean water and environmental regulations.

"What a life, what a legacy," he said of Hollings.

Another eulogist, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, noted he is one of the few politicians who had the gumption to challenge Hollings for his Senate seat, pointing to their sometimes heated 1986 duel in which he became the fifth of Hollings' seven unsuccessful opponents.

It was during that race that McMaster's campaign strategy team "hatched the great idea," he said of asking Hollings during a debate to take a drug test.

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Hollings' retort: "I'll take a drug test if you'll take an IQ test."

The barb put Republican McMaster in his place and Hollings would win another term.

McMaster reflected on that race in kind terms Tuesday, saying the months of campaigning allowed him to share the stage "with one of the greatest men South Carolina will ever produce."

He added, "The magnificent South Carolina lion roars no more."

The third eulogist, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., reflected on how Hollings came of political age at a time of segregation, where social pressure made him obligated to protect the status quo in politics, the courtroom and elsewhere.

But he saw how Hollings grew toward racial reconciliation, moving the state to take down barriers for blacks to health care, education in public schools and at the college level ahead of when Charlestonian Harvey Gantt peacefully integrated Clemson University in 1963.

"Not all men will (grow), but Fritz Hollings did," Clyburn said.

Clyburn was one of several speakers who acknowledged Hollings' push to have his name removed from the federal courthouse in Charleston and replaced by that of Judge J. Waties Waring, who from the bench fought the notion of "separate but equal" as unjust.

It is believed to be the only time such a naming reversal has happened in federal history.

"Fritz grew and I grew along with him," he said.

One of the lighter moments came when former Chief of Staff Michael Copps spoke of some of the odd phrases Hollings often spoke to staff in trying to guide them or give a lesson.

"Keep your eye on the doughnut, not the hole," Copps said. "His quotes could fill a book."

Hollings' burial after the service was private.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

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