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William L. Scott

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Title: William L. Scott  
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Subject: Virginia's 8th congressional district, United States Senate election in Virginia, 1972, Howard W. Smith, Stanford Parris, United States House of Representatives elections, 1972
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William L. Scott

William Lloyd Scott
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 1, 1979
Preceded by William B. Spong, Jr.
Succeeded by John Warner
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 8th district
In office
January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by Howard W. Smith
Succeeded by Stanford E. Parris
Personal details
Born (1915-07-01)July 1, 1915
Williamsburg, Virginia
Died February 14, 1997(1997-02-14) (aged 81)
Fairfax Station, Virginia
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Religion Methodist[1]

William Lloyd Scott (July 1, 1915 – February 14, 1997) was a Republican politician from Virginia. He served in both the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate, and was Virginia's first post-Reconstruction Republican Senator.


  • Early life 1
  • United States House 2
  • United States Senate 3
  • Retirement and death 4
  • Racism 5
  • "Dumbest Member of Congress" 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

William L. Scott was born in LL.M. in 1939.[4] Scott was admitted to the bar, and was employed as a trial attorney with the Department of Justice until 1966.[5]

Scott served in the United States Army during World War II, enlisting as a Private in April of 1945, and receiving his discharge later the same year as a result of the end of the war.[6] He was later active in the American Legion.[7]

He engaged in the private practice of law in Fairfax, Virginia from 1961 to 1966. In 1963 and 1965 he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Virginia State Senate.[8] In 1965 he initially appeared to have won, but a recount showed that he had lost by 21 votes.[9]

United States House

Scott won the George Rawlings. With support from conservative Democrats as well as Republicans, Scott handily defeated Rawlings in November. He was easily re-elected twice, and served from January 3, 1967 to January 3, 1973.

United States Senate

In 1972, Scott won the Republican nomination for the United States Senate and defeated Democratic incumbent William B. Spong, Jr. in a close race, making Scott the first Republican Senator from Virginia since Reconstruction.[10] Scott benefited from Richard Nixon's landslide victory in that year's presidential election, with Nixon winning Virginia by almost 38 points and carrying all but one of the state's counties.

Scott served one term, January 3, 1973 to January 1, 1979. He did not run for re-election in 1978, and resigned on January 1, 1979, two days before the end of his term. Scott's resignation enabled the Governor of Virginia to appoint the winner of the 1978 Senate election, John Warner, to fill the vacancy, giving Warner one day of seniority over other Senators who were elected in 1978.[11]

Retirement and death

In retirement Scott resided in Fairfax Station, Virginia. In his later years he suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and resided in a Fairfax nursing center. Scott died in Fairfax on February 14, 1997. He was interred at Fairfax Memorial Park in Fairfax.[12]


Scott was frequently cited as an example of racism in Congress, and some of his words and actions were reported in the media. When criticizing the implementation of the Post Office's ZIP code program, he was quoted as saying "the only reason we need zip codes is because niggers can't read."[13]

In addition, his name appeared in an exposé of Congressional staff hiring practices as one of the members who had given "No Blacks" and other similar instructions to the Capitol Hill Placement Bureau.[14]

In addition to his racism, Scott also displayed anti-semitism while in Congress. Another report indicated that during a job interview, Scott was told that the applicant was Jewish, and replied "Oh, I've got too many of them here now to hire you."[15]

"Dumbest Member of Congress"

A 1974 article in New Times by Nina Totenberg reported that Scott had been ranked at the top of the list of "The Ten Dumbest Members of Congress".[16]

Scott's critics cited many examples to support this claim. While being briefed by members of the military about missile silos in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Scott supposedly said "Wait a minute! I'm not interested in agriculture. I want the military stuff."[17] In addition, 1975 press accounts of a trip he took to the Middle East stated that Scott was a "diplomat's nightmare" who mistook the Suez Canal for the Persian Gulf, refused to enter a mosque because it wasn't "a Christian building," and asked Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin "What is this Gaza stuff? I have never understood that."[18]

Scott held a press conference to deny the claims of the New Times story, which had the effect of giving the allegation wider circulation and enhanced credibility.[19]

In 2000 and afterwards, journalist Harry Stein, who had provided much of the background information to Totenberg based on an earlier Stein article for another publication called The Private Faces of Bill Scott, said the articles had been a "vicious hatchet job," and agreed with Scott's assessment at the time that the articles were written by "some left-wing kids from Richmond with an agenda." Stein went on to say that while Scott was a tempting target -- roundly disliked by his colleagues and his staff, and widely regarded as incompetent -- Stein and his colleagues had done Scott "a disservice" for which Stein expressed regret.[20][21]

During his Congressional service Scott was also criticized for excessive expenses incurred during his fact-finding trips abroad.[22]


  1. ^ Virginia State Senate Joint Resolution No. 405, On the Death of Senator William L. Scott, February 20, 1997
  2. ^ "St. Albans Woman's Brother: Virginia Republican Wins; Democrat Happy". Charleston Daily Mail. November 9, 1966. p. 10. 
  3. ^ Virginia State Senate Joint Resolution No. 405, On the Death of Senator William L. Scott, February 20, 1997
  4. ^ "Biographies of Members of Congress: William L. Scott". Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, Volume 24 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Incorporated): p. 2949. 1967. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Biography: William L. Scott". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 89 (Richmond: Virginia Historical Society): 200. 1981. 
  6. ^ William L. Scott at U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, National Archives and Records Administration
  7. ^ Biography, William L. Scott. Guide to the William Lloyd Scott papers, 1967-1979. George Mason University Libraries.
  8. ^ "St. Albans Woman's Brother: Virginia Republican Wins; Democrat Happy". Charleston Daily Mail. November 9, 1966. p. 10. 
  9. ^ "Biographies of Members of Congress: William L. Scott". Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, Volume 24 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Incorporated): p. 2949. 1967. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  10. ^ Virginia State Senate Joint Resolution No. 405, On the Death of Senator William L. Scott, February 20, 1997
  11. ^ John William Warner at Congressional Biographical Directory
  12. ^ "William Scott, 81, Congressman Symbolizing G.O.P. Rise in South".  
  13. ^ Felton, Bruce; Fowler, Mark (1985). Felton & Fowler's Best, Worst, and Most Unusual. Random House Value Publishing. p. 115. 
  14. ^ "Politics: Exposé; "No Blacks" Wanted by Congressmen". Jet (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Co.): p. 23. September 12, 1974. 
  15. ^ Hirschorn, Michael (February 1, 1989). "Popsicles and Nutty Buddies". Spy (New York: Spy Publishing Partners): p. 87. 
  16. ^ Totenberg, Nina (1974). "The Ten Dumbest Members of Congress". New Times. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  17. ^ Lee, Laura (2008). Schadenfreude, Baby!. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. pp. 102–103.  
  18. ^ Press, Associated (October 1, 1975). "Senator denies Faux Pas on Mideast Trip". Miami News. p. 2A. 
  19. ^ "Nina Totenberg", Current Biography Yearbook, 1996, pages 575–579.
  20. ^ Stein, Harry (Spring 2008). "How the Press Got Political".  
  21. ^ Brumfield, Dale M. Richmond Independent Press: A History of the Underground Zine Scene. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 103.  
  22. ^ Tierney, John (27 November 1978). "Senate Losing One of a Kind". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Howard W. Smith
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 8th congressional district

January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1973
Succeeded by
Stanford E. Parris
United States Senate
Preceded by
William B. Spong, Jr.
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Virginia
January 3, 1973 – January 1, 1979
Served alongside: Harry F. Byrd, Jr.
Succeeded by
John W. Warner
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