Eight months before my son was born I started writing. I’ve kept plenty of journals over the years, mostly family stories, but I really began making it a point to jot down a paragraph or two each night in hopes that one day he might go back and read about his old man. It’s something I wish my Father had done for me, and the further along I got in the process the more I realized I had a lot to share; not just about family members he’ll never get to meet, but what it was like for us living South of Broad here in Charleston. I'd like to begin this series by letting the reader know I'll be writing these anecdotes and narratives with full transparency and to the best of my knowledge. My tendency to write with heavy sarcasm has been with me since grade school so I'll try my best to "*" when I'm laying it on pretty thick, just be aware there's a definite smirk across my face before the asterisk.
The Old Master Says: Week 2, Boats & Breakfast
When I was 11 years old I found myself at Nathan's Deli (the former West Ashley location here in Charleston, SC) for breakfast with my old man and South Carolina Senator, Fritz Hollings. Normal kids were enjoying Saturday Morning Cartoons, eating sugary breakfast cereal, planning out their day of video games, bike riding, and figuring out ways to get into trouble (which is precisely what I would have rather been doing), but instead I found myself having breakfast with a US Senator. If memory serves, this ritual continued for several Saturdays in a row until Senator Hollings was due back in Washington. Scrambled eggs, sausage (patties not links), hash-browns, and a sesame seed bagel with a slice of cream cheese was the go-to at Nathan's. The Senator and my Dad enjoyed either steak and eggs (or maybe it was corned beef hash) along with copious amounts of coffee, but every Saturday the conversation was the same... Law. Practicing law, studying law, new laws, old laws, you name it. I distinctly remember being intrigued with their discussion, and how most of the conversion flowed regarding court cases they had both been a part of at Hollings, Hawkins, & Morris Law Firm.
To give you a quick bit of history: Before Senator Hollings was a South Carolina Senator and before he was Governor of South Carolina, he practiced law with Falcon Hawkins (great name right?). Together they started a Law Firm, Hollings & Hawkins, and this was my old man's first job out of law school in 1966 where he eventually became partner. The firm then evolved into Hollings, Hawkins, & Morris shortly after. In 1967, Hollings entered the United States Senate, and in 1979 Hawkins was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to become a Federal Judge (to which he was appointed). This left my old man at the helm of the firm to form Morris, Duffy, & Boone, the final evolution to the original Hollings Firm that would later be dissolved and bought out by McNair Law Firm (without my Dad, which is a great story for a later entry).
A copy of Wigmore's Code of Evidence from the offices of Hollings & Hawkins with "E.F. Hollings" stamped on the outside.
As we scraped our plates at the last of these breakfast outings the Senator invited us to visit him in Washington. I had yet to visit DC, and my parents found it to be the perfect educational opportunity. Jump to a few months later and I'm standing in Senator Hollings office in a pair of worn out khakis, a navy blazer, and sneakers (remember I'm 11), completely unaware of the unique position I found myself. I remember being asked if I was enjoying myself, and where we were headed next on our day playing tourist. I told the Senator "I believe we're supposed to have lunch and then tour the Capitol Building.", which my parents quickly confirmed. What we didn't expect was for the Senator to take us to our next destination himself via the rail system that connects the Senate Offices to the Capitol. I can remember that ride fairly clearly: Armed guards and Secret Service at every corner and turn, with an insane amount of staffers hurrying behind or in front of whichever Senator they were serving as my parents pointed out each one along the way. Once we had arrived, we said our goodbyes to Senator Hollings, and a member of his staff informed us we'd be having lunch (without him, unfortunately) at the US Senate Dining Room.
Flash forward 27 years, and I'm now sitting with my wife and son in the middle of Charleston Harbor as invited guests on a spectator ship for the MUSC Hollings Cup Regatta, a charity race for the Hollings Cancer Center. Back in 1993, MUSC dedicated the establishment to the Senator, who’s active support in it’s formation drove it’s overall success. When the Hollings Cancer Center reached out to us to contribute to the Regatta Cup I was reminded of my time with the Senator, and I felt compelled to give back at least a modicum of kindness that the Senator had shown me as a young man. When I told these anecdotes to my wife Natalie out on the water I began to wonder why those specific memories had stuck with me. She reminded me just how important it can be to be young and have an adult talk to you as an adult, an equal, and not an awkward 11 year old in sneakers. It has the ability to quickly build confidence, shutting down the fear of feeling out of place, and instead replacing it with a feeling of welcome, which is exactly how the Senator had made me feel (with or without realizing it).
Hollings Cup Regatta - Charleston Harbor - 2023
When my old man became partner at Hollings, Hawkins, & Morris, the Senator gave him a brown leather briefcase as a gift (again, an incredibly thoughtful gesture). For the next 48 years, until his passing, that briefcase went to every meeting, deposition, court case, family trip, and overseas adventure my Dad ever had. If he was going somewhere, guaranteed that brief case was close by. It didn't matter how many briefcases we gifted him over the years, he only ever used that one. As I sit here reminiscing, staring at that brief case, with it's scuffs, dents, and torn leather it's become a constant reminder of every outing I spent with him, and having breakfast with the incredibly kind man that gave it to him.
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I'd like to thank the Hollings Cancer Center staff for reaching out to us, unaware of my connection to the Senator, to participate in their silent auction and graciously extend the invitation to attend the regatta that weekend. The day was well documented as being not only a great day out on the water, but our son's first boat ride and sailing race. Thank You.
Hollings Cup Regatta - Charleston Harbor - 2023