COLUMBIA, S.C. — The man who will become the South's first black Republican senator since Reconstruction said Monday his ascension in politics showed the evolution of his state and the nation.
Congressman Tim Scott was picked by fellow Republican Gov. Nikki Haley to take over the seat being vacated by Jim DeMint. Haley, a daughter of Indian immigrants who became South Carolina's first female and minority governor in 2010, acknowledged making history with her appointment, but she stressed that she picked Scott for his conservative values.
It is very important to me as a minority female, that Congressman Scott earned this seat, he earned this seat for the person he is, for the results he's shown, she said. He earned this seat for what I know he's going to do in making South Carolina and our country proud.
Scott, 47, will be sworn in Jan. 3 to replace DeMint, who announced earlier this month he would forgo the remaining four years of his term to lead The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Scott's selection culminates a fast rise through South Carolina politics. Just four years ago, he was chairman of the Charleston County Council. The 2008 election made him the first black Republican in the South Carolina Legislature in more than a century, and in 2010, he won his seat in the U.S. House.
He'll become only the fourth black Republican in Senate history and the first black senator since former Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was elected president. He will soon be the only black Republican in Congress, after Rep. Allen West of Florida lost his re-election bid last month.
Outside the Statehouse where Scott spoke, a statue still stands of post-Reconstruction former governor and U.S. Senator Ben Tillman, who unapologetically advocated lynching any black who tried to vote. Another statue depicts the late Strom Thurmond, who still holds a record for a 24-hour filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.