CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Former State Representative John Graham Altman has passed away after spending the past week in the hospital, according to family members.
Altman was hospitalized last week with a serious infection in his blood and kidneys, and has been receiving treatment in the intensive care unit at MUSC. He died Tuesday at the age of 79 of a massive stroke and organ failure, his family says.
Altman was known as a colorful and controversial character during his time as both a state representative and Charleston County School Board Chairman.
"He has a little bit of a rough side to him," said South Carolina Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell. "But frankly, a lot of us just kinda love that about him."
After graduating from Carolina Law, Altman became a young press aid to then Gov. Fritz Hollings. He then voted for George McGovern in the 1972 presidential election, one of the most liberal democrats ever to seek the highest office in the land.
During his later years, he turned into a bombastic, fire-breathing conservative who railed against what he called the "militant homosexual lobby" and some black leaders whom he called "racial hustlers."
Altman, who has deep roots in the West Ashley community, became a God-fearing outspoken right winger, quick with a quip against those who leaned to the left.
Charm Altman, John's third wife, was married to the man for 25 years. She says there was a kinder, softer side to her husband people often did not see. A man who loved animals, would cry while watching TV shows, and was always looking to help others
She says she wants people to remember the former state Rep. as "the kindest, most gentle man they've ever known. That would give you the shirt off his back and do anything for you."