Converse College alumna Holly Johnston Richardson ’78 passed away Monday, Sept. 30 after a brave battle against breast cancer. The Summerville native was 48. She is survived by her husband, Phil, and two children, Emmett, 12, and Anne, 9, and her parents, Joanne and Coy Johnston of Summerville, S.C.
Since 1978, Holly functioned as U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond’s master scheduler, making sure he was in the right place at the appointed time. Her supervised Rolodex included the numbers for scores of average South Carolinians and several heads of state, and she could get most of them on the phone in seconds.
"On Sept. 30, I lost one of my closest friends and staff members," Thurmond said in a statement issued by his office. "She was a member of my extended family in every sense of the word."
Holly met the Thurmond family after joining his 1978 re-election campaign, just after her graduation from Converse College in Spartanburg. She drove a camper, nicknamed "Strom Trek," over 10,000 miles in 10 weeks, recalled Nancy Thurmond, the senator’s now-estranged wife.
Her first job in Thurmond’s office was to answer phones, greet visitors and help out with constituents’ problems. She also oversaw the office’s intern and page programs, which gave high school and college students opportunities to learn the workings of a congressional office.
Generations of interns, staffers and members of Congress recall her courtesy and work ethic. "Holly Richardson was one of the most personable and efficient people I’ve ever known," said N.C. Sen. Jesse Helms. "She was unfailingly pleasant and devoted to Strom Thurmond — a feeling that was mutual."
Holly, an active member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Va., her adopted hometown, had a strong faith that supported her and others. She was also an active member of the Junior League.
Memorials may be made to: The Strom Thurmond and Holly Richardson Public Service Scholarship, Converse College, 580 East Main St., Spartanburg, SC 29302-0006, or The Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at the Lombardi Cancer Center, New Research Building, Room E501, 3970 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007.