The Hollings Oncology Center was dedicated in a bipartisan lovefest that came in the midst of what may have been one of the bitterest political seasons South Carolina had experienced since Reconstruction.

The state, considered at the start of the campaign to be solidly in President Bush’s camp, appeared close to going over to Bill Clinton. And Democratic Sen. Ernest (Fritz) Hollings was in the fight of his life, challenged by a Republican working the anti-incumbent theme for all it was worth and attempting to cash in on Hollings’ vote against the Gulf war.

Republican Strom Thurmond, 90-year-old patriarch of the U.S . Senate, was there, warmly praising Hollings for his contributions to the state and country and congratulating him for his “hard work” in establishing the new center at the Medical Univ. of South Carolina.

Former Republican Gov. James Edwards, now MUSC president, thanked both Hollings and Thurmond for their support. Fitzhugh – Mullen, chairman of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, said Hollings “to many of us is a hero” for using the Senate Appropriations Committee to support cancer research. The center is “a monument to your efforts, and will be a model for cancer centers in the 21st Century,” Mullen told Hollings.

NCI Director Samuel Broder, keynote speaker at the dedication, gave Hollings credit for “single handedly securing an additional $200 million for us this year, every penny of which is being spent to reduce the toll of cancer.”

In his remarks, Hollings reminded his fellow Charleston citizens that “when we lost Mendel (one of the longest serving and most powerful Congressmen ever from South Carolina, Mendel Rivers, who died of cancer in 1970), he didn’t die here. He died in Birmingham.” Hollings noted that the Univ. of Alabama had a cancer center and suggested that it was not a coincidence that Alabama Sen. Lister Hill was then chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

“I said to Dr. Sam (Broder) that you fund three cancer centers in North Carolina (at Duke, Univ. of North Carolina, Wake Forest Univ.). Why not support one here?” Hollings was careful to add that the planning grant the university received for the center was awarded on a competitive basis.

Thurmond got his pitch in. “Dr. Broder, you couldn’t find a better place in the world than Charleston to put some cancer money.” Broder responded, “I heard you. Don’t worry.”