ROCK HILL — The line of community members wanting to thank former U.S. Rep. John Spratt for his nearly three decades of service wrapped around the Baxter Hood Center at York Technical College Sunday afternoon.
In two corners of the banquet room, photos of Spratt through his 28 years as the 5th District representative in the U.S. House of Representatives were projected on large screens.
Old campaign flyers, buttons, plaques, awards and trophies lined tables along the wall of the room.
And just about everyone there identified themselves as a "long-time supporter" of Spratt and all he's done in office, from balancing the budget to settling the Catawba Indian land claim that cleared the title to 225 square miles of land in York and Lancaster and paved the way for development in the area to thrive.
"We've always supported him," Terri Huntley said on behalf of her and her husband, Steve. "He's been a tireless public servant for the state. And we've been a fan of all he's done."
Their son even interned for Spratt. So did Rock Hill native John Holder.
Holder, who said he was one of Spratt's first interns in Washington, D.C., in the early 80s, has lived a life filled with politics after working on Spratt's first campaign in 1982. Holder was 20 years old then.
"I took a year off from college and volunteered on his first campaign," Holder said. "He got me involved in politics. I've been doing, studying or teaching politics ever since."
Holder said Spratt is a "great guy" who deserves to be honored for all he's done in office.
"He's as responsible as anyone else for balancing budget in the late 1990s," Holder said. "I wish he was still in office to see what he could do about the current budget issues."
Those long-time supporters gave Spratt a standing ovation, complete with cheers, claps and a loud "I love you, John" that lasted well over a minute.
Though he said he was losing his voice from talking individually to everyone and he got a bit choked up at points, Spratt recalled running for office for the first time. He also thanked all of those supporters for fulfilling his lifelong ambition to serve in Congress and re-electing him 13 times.
Rock Hill attorney David White, who also worked on Spratt's first campaign, described him as "serving the nation with unfailing dedication."
White outlined Spratt's accomplishments, which include playing a key role in passing the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and leaving a surplus for the incoming George W. Bush administration.
White also touted Spratt for his controversial support for Bush's TARP bill to keep the nation's banks and auto manufacturers from going under. And Spratt supported the Recovery Act with the goal of helping to restart the economy and save the jobs of thousands of teachers, police and emergency first responders.
Spratt also was instrumental in successfully pushing for more than $120 million in building projects for Shaw Air Force Base.
A self-described fiscal conservative, Spratt served as chairman of the Budget Committee and was second-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
After losing his bid for a 15th term to then-state Sen. Mick Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, Spratt said he hasn't decided what's next.
"I've been taking it day to day. I haven't spent much time exploring my options yet," he said. "Mostly doing mundane things like moving 600 boxes to South Carolina."
Spratt said he may consider teaching for a semester or being a part of a think tank in Washington, D.C.
"Whatever I do choose, it'll be part-time," he said.
Kimberly Dick 803-329-4082