The moment was brief, but when Senator-designate and current Rep.Tim Scott (R-S.C.) motioned over to his mother, Frances, during his acceptance speech at yesterday’s press conference, it truly summed up how significant his appointment to the United States Senate really is.
Tim Scott didn’t have the same upbringing that many of his future colleagues had. He wasn’t born with a trust fund, nor did he have the opportunity to attend the elite prep schools and Ivy League universities that many others who have served in Congress’ upper chamber did.
Instead, Scott grew up in poverty in the Deep South during the years following the Civil Rights Movement. He was raised by a single mother after his parents’ divorce as a young child, a mother who worked 16 hours a day as a nursing assistant to provide for her children.
Scott’s life changed dramatically when he was taken under the wings of John Moniz, the owner of the local Chick-fil-A shop in Charleston. It was Moniz who first introduced Scott to the conservative, Christian beliefs that have driven his life and political career ever since.
As Scott described Moniz to the New York Times in 2010, “To know my story is to understand that there were people who had no reason to step up to the plate and help me.”
Moniz also convinced Scott to join his high school’s football team, which ultimately resulted in a partial scholarship to Presbyterian College. Scott eventually transferred to Charleston Southern University, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science in 1988. Shortly afterward, he opened his own insurance agency and became a partner in a local real estate agency.
But helping others was his true calling, and in 1995 Scott decided to run for elected office when an at-large seat on the Charleston County Council opened. Scott was elected with more than 80 percent of the vote and became a powerful political force at the local level. He served on the County Council for thirteen years, the last two as Chairman, before winning a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2008.
Scott emerged on the national scene when he ran for Congress from South Carolina’s First District in 2010, beating the son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond in a runoff with 68 percent of the vote. Eschewing the principles of his late mentor, Scott quickly became one of the few Republicans in Congress loved by both establishment politicians and Tea Party supporters alike.
It may not have been his goal, but Scott has managed to break through the proverbial glass ceiling with every turn of his political career. He was the first black Republican elected to any office in South Carolina when he won his Council seat in 1995 and later in the State House of Representatives in 2008. And when he is sworn in to the U.S. Senate on January 3, Scott will become only the second black Republican – and first from the former Confederacy – to serve in the United States Senate since the Reconstruction. He will also be the only African-American currently serving in the Senate.
And so it ultimately makes sense that one of the biggest political forces in the conservative movement today – retiring S.C. Sen. Jim DeMint – will now be replaced by another star in the making.