William L. Scott

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William Lloyd Scott, Sr.

In office
January 3, 1973 – January 1, 1979
Preceded by William Belser Spong, Jr.
Succeeded by John Warner

United States Representative for
Virginia's 8th congressional district
In office
January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by Howard W. Smith
Succeeded by Stanford E. Parris

Born July 1, 1915
Williamsburg, Virginia
Died February 14, 1997 (aged 81)
Fairfax Station, Virginia
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ruth Inez Huffman Scott (married 1940-1997, his death)[1]
Children Gail Ann Scott

Paul Alvin Scott
William Scott, Jr.[2]
William David and Nora Bell Ingram Scott

Religion United Methodist[3]

William Lloyd Scott, Sr. (July 1, 1915 – February 14, 1997) ,was a Republican one-term United States Senator for his native Virginia. Previously he was a United States Representative for three terms. He was his state's first Republican Senator since Reconstruction.[4]


Scott was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, to William David Scott (1875-1924) and the former Nora Bell Ingram (1882-1959). He was still a boy when his father died. He graduated from high school in St. Albans, West Virginia[5] and began a career with the United States Government Printing Office.[3] He received a Bachelor of Laws in 1938 and a Master of Laws in 1939 from what is now George Washington University in Washington, D.C.[6] Upon his admission to the bar, he became a trial attorney with the United States Department of Justice until 1966, when he first ran for the U.S. House.[6]

Scott served briefly in the United States Army during World War II. He enlisted as a private in April 1945 and was discharged later that year when the war ended. He was later active in the American Legion.[7]

Political career

From 1961 to 1966, Scott practiced law in Fairfax, Virginia. In 1963 and again in 1965, he lost races for the Virginia State Senate.[5] In the latter contest, Scott appeared to have won, but a recount showed that he had lost by twenty-one votes.[6]

Scott served on the Virginia Republican Central Committee.In 1966, he won the Republican nomination for Virginia's 8th congressional district and expected to face 18-term incumbent Howard W. Smith, the chairman of the then pivotal House Rules Committee. Considered a Conservative Democrat, Smith lost his own renomination to a more liberal Democrat, State Delegate George Chancellor Rawlings, Jr. (1921-2009). Scott defeated Rawlings, 53,190 votes (57.3 percent) to 39,423 (42.7 percent) and served for three terms in the U.S. House from 1967 to 1973, when he took his oath of office as a U.S. Senator.

In 1972, Scott won the Republican nomination for the United States Senate and then unseated the one-term Democratic incumbent William Belser Spong, Jr. (1920-1997) to become Virginia's first Republican U.S. Senator of the 20th century.[3] Scott benefited from Richard Nixon's landslide victory in the 1972 presidential election, when Nixon prevailed in the state by nearly forty points. He had also carried Virginia in 1960 and 1968 as well. Only one Virginia county backed Nixon's opponent, Democrat U.S. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota.

Scott did not seek reelection in 1978, and conservatives rallied behind Richard Obenshain, who perished in a plane crash during the campaign. The GOP nomination then went to John Warner, who ran initially as a conservative but subsequently became the epitome of establishment Republicanism. Scott resigned two days before the expiration of his term so that Republican Governor John N. Dalton could appointed Warner to fill the two-day vacancy and thereby gain seniority over other senators, the majority of whom were Democrats.[8]

Attacks on Scott's intellect

A 1974 article in New Times Magazine by the liberal columnist Nina Totenberg reported that Scott had been ranked at the top of the list of "The Ten Dumbest Members of Congress."[9] To bolster Totenberg's claim, it was reported that Scott confused Soviet missile silos with agricultural structures.[10] In 1975, when Scott went to the Middle East, he asked Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to explain to him the issues about the Gaza Strip. On that trip Scott refused to enter a mosque because it wasn't "a Christian building."[11] Scott called a press conference to deny the claims of the New Times story, but only gave the matter wider circulation.[12]

After Scott's death, the journalist Harry Stein (born 1948), who had provided the background information to Totenberg said that the senator was the victim of a "vicious hatchet job" published by leftist young men in the capital city of Richmond. 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—he and his colleagues had done Scott "a disservice" for which Stein expressed regret.[13]

Scott was also questioned about possibly excessive expenses incurred during his fact-finding trips abroad.[14]

Later years

Scott resided during his retirement in Fairfax Station, Virginia. He and his wife, the former Ruth Inez Huffman Scott (1915-1998), had a daughter, Gail Ann, and two sons, Paul Alvin Scott and William Scott, Jr.[2] He died in a nursing home at the age of eighty-one of a chest infection and Alzheimer's disease. He and his wife are interred at Fairfax Memorial Park in Fairfax.[15]


  1. Ruth Inez Huffman Scott (1915-1998) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed November 4, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 William Lloyd Scott (July 1, 1915 — February 14, 1997), American investor, lawyer, senator | World Biographical Encyclopedia (prabook.com), accessed November 4, 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "On the Death of Senator William L. Scott," Virginia State Senate Joint Resolution No. 405, February 20, 1997.
  4. William Lloyd Scott. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on November 4, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "St. Albans Woman's Brother: Virginia Republican Wins; Democrat Happy," Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail, November 9, 1966, p. 10.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Biographies of Members of Congress: William L. Scott, Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, Vol. 24, p. 2949.
  7. Guide to the William Lloyd Scott papers, 1967-1979 William Lloyd Scott C0128 (gmu.edu), George Mason University Libraries, accessed November 4, 2021.
  8. John William Warner, Congressional Biographical Directory.
  9. Nina Totenberg, The Ten Dumbest Members of Congress, The New Times," 1974.
  10. Laura Lee, Schadenfreude, Baby," 2008, Globe Pequot Press, pp. 102-103.
  11. "Senator Denies Faux Pas on Mideast Trip," The Miami News," October 1, 1975, p. 2A.
  12. "Nina Totenberg," Current Biography, 1996, pp. 575–579.
  13. Harry Stein (Spring 2008). How the Press Got Political. New York City Journal. Retrieved on June 16, 2014.
  14. John Tierney (November 27, 1978). Senate Losing One of a Kind. The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved on October 11, 2014.
  15. William Scott, 81, Congressman Symbolizing G.O.P. Rise in South. The New York Times (February 17, 1997). Retrieved on November 4, 2021; under pay wall.