“All the world knows the remark of the governor of North Carolina to the governor of South Carolina, ‘It’s been a long time between drinks.’ The true history of the famous anecdote was told recently by [Ben Tillman, U.S. senator from South Carolina].
“It appears that the phrase was first heard at a political dinner when the governors of both North and South Carolina were present. The first governor had delivered a fiery political speech. The situation was intense when the turn came for the governor of South Carolina to speak. It seemed that any word the governor might say would complicate the situations; even should he keep silent, his opinion would seem clear. It was at the critical moment that the governor of the other Carolina arose and, inspired by a stroke of genius, remarked: ‘It’s been a long time between drinks.’ The absolutely noncommittal remark saved the situation.”
— From “A Famous Phrase” in the Los Angeles Herald, Dec. 11, 1904