William Jennings Bryan Dorn, who represented western South Carolina in the U.S. House for nearly three decades, died Saturday in his home, his daughter said. He was 89.
Dorn’s family was with him when he died, said his daughter Olivia Dorn-Kennedy. A cause of death was not immediately released.
Dorn’s first term in the U.S. House began in 1947. He stepped down to launch an unsuccessful Senate campaign, then was returned to the House in 1951. He served 12 more terms, ending his last in 1974 to run for governor, a race he ultimately lost to James Edwards, the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.
Named for one-time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, Dorn started his own political career in 1938 when he was elected to the South Carolina House at the age of 22. Two years later, he was elected to the state Senate.
During World War II, he served in the Army Air Force in Europe. He kept up with military issues the rest of his political career, and a veteran’s hospital in Columbia is named for him.
Dorn also fought for civil rights, advocating busing to integrate public schools long before the idea took hold.
“He took the road for civil rights when it was so unpopular in the 1960s,” Dorn-Kennedy said. “I remember as a young child the Klan approaching our house.”
Dorn ran for governor twice, in 1974 and 1978, losing both times. After the second loss, he was elected chairman of the state Democratic party in 1980.
He is survived by five children and seven grandchildren.