The license plate on his Lincoln no longer says "No. 1," but former state Rep. Herb Kirsh still gets plenty of recognition in Columbia's Capitol building where he toiled for 32 years.
Just ask the man who beat him in last year's election.
"I have an entirely new level of respect for Mr. Kirsh," Tommy Pope told an audience Monday in downtown Clover. "If he would have educated me on all that he did, I probably would have gracefully bowed out."
Pope and western York County lawmakers and mayors presented an Order of the Palmetto award to Kirsh, formerly the longest serving member of the state House of Representatives.
With a couple of his trademark feisty quips, the 81-year-old conservative Democrat thanked the crowd of 30 people, and later added he has no plans to hand over the license tag that marked his status as the state's longest-serving legislator.
"They wanted me to give that tag back," Kirsh said. "I said (heck) no, I'm keeping it. I paid for it. I've got it on the wall."
State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, who sat next to Kirsh on the state House floor, marveled at his colleague's legendary attention to detail on the Ways and Means Committee. "There was nobody who knew the budget better than Mr. Kirsh," Simrill said.
Clover Mayor Donnie Grice said he couldn't recall Kirsh ever missing an Eagle Scout ceremony, even when a busy schedule could have kept him away.
"I call him an icon," Grice said. "When Mr. Herb first got into public service, I was a little boy. I know who Herb Kirsh was. He was a household name."
Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, said he looked to Kirsh as a mentor. "I used to tease him, he's a Democrat, but he's more conservative than any Republican we've got in Columbia," Peeler said.
Kirsh said he gets calls all the time from constituents unaware he's no longer in office. He tells them to call Tommy Pope and let him work on the problem: "I've got his phone number right by my desk."