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.
William L. Scott was born in Williamsburg, Virginia on July 1, 1915. He graduated from high school in St. Albans, West Virginia and began a career with the Government Printing Office. He received an LL.B. from National University School of Law (now George Washington University Law School) in 1938 and an LL.M. in 1939. Scott was admitted to the bar, and was employed as a trial attorney with the Department of Justice until 1966.
Scott served in the United States Army during World War II, enlisting as a Private in April 1945, and receiving his discharge later the same year as a result of the end of the war. He was later active in the American Legion.
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. In 1965 he initially appeared to have won, but a recount showed that he had lost by 21 votes.
United States House
Scott won the Republican nomination for Virginia's 8th congressional district in 1966. He expected to face 18-term incumbent and House Rules Committee chairman Howard W. Smith, a conservative Democrat, but Smith lost renomination to a more liberal Democrat, State Delegate 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. 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.
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, and was interred at Fairfax Memorial Park in Fairfax.
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."
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.
In addition to his racism, Scott was also alleged to have displayed anti-semitism while in Congress. One news 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."
"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".
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." 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."
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.
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.
During his Congressional service Scott was also criticized for excessive expenses incurred during his fact-finding trips abroad.