W. Kerr Scott

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William Kerr Scott
W. Kerr Scott.jpg
United States Senator
from North Carolina
In office
November 29, 1954 – April 16, 1958
Preceded by Alton Lennon
Succeeded by B. Everett Jordan
62nd Governor of North Carolina
In office
January 6, 1949 – January 8, 1953
Lieutenant Hoyt Patrick Taylor
Preceded by R. Gregg Cherry
Succeeded by William B. Umstead
Personal details
Born (1896-04-17)April 17, 1896
Haw River, North Carolina
Died April 16, 1958(1958-04-16) (aged 61)
Burlington, North Carolina
Political party Democratic
Alma mater North Carolina State University
Profession Agriculture
Scott (left) in 1951, with Harry S. Truman and Gordon Gray.
Portrait as governor

William Kerr Scott (April 17, 1896 – April 16, 1958) was an American Democratic Party politician from North Carolina. He was the 62nd Governor of North Carolina from 1949 until 1953 and a United States Senator from 1954 until 1958.

Career

A native of Alamance County, North Carolina, and a farmer by training, Scott was a lifelong advocate for agricultural issues and became known in his home state as "the Squire of Haw River." He was elected as the state's Commissioner of Agriculture, but resigned that post to run for governor in 1948. His followers, popularly known as "Branchhead Boys," fervently supported Scott in all his campaigns and remained a force in North Carolina politics for more than a decade following his death.

Scott created the "Go Forward" program with approval from the state legislature in 1949. He also signed a $200 million rural road building program, leading to nearly 15,000 additional miles of paved road in the state.[1] Immediately following his term as governor, he represented North Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 and 1958. His son, Bob Scott served as governor from 1969 to 1973, and his granddaughter, Meg Scott Phipps served as North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture from 2001 to 2003.

Relative to other Southern Democrats, Scott was a moderate regarding racial issues during his time as governor. While he supported segregation, he appointed the first black member of the North Carolina Board of Education, Dr. Harold Trigg, and nominated University of North Carolina President Frank Porter Graham to fill a vacant United States Senate seat in 1949. Graham was regarded as one of the most racially and generally progressive figures in the South, and became victimized by pernicious attacks concerning his views on race relations when he campaigned the following year to maintain his senate seat. In an effort to defend Graham, Scott lent the full weight of his political organization to him and assiduously campaigned across North Carolina. Despite intervention from Scott, President Harry Truman, U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn, and others, Graham was defeated by conservative lawyer Willis Smith for the Democratic Party's nomination. The tenor of Willis Smith's campaign was considered so offensive that Scott's wife, First Lady Mary Scott, refused to shake the senator-elect's hand at an Executive Mansion reception.

Years later, when Scott elected to run for the same U.S. Senate seat which had been contested by Graham, he was queried by a local reporter about how his campaign would respond to the race-baiting strategies that are imputed with the loss of his appointee. To this, he is said to have grinned and replied, "I'll handle it, son. I'm not as good a Christian as Frank Porter Graham."

Scott attained the Senate seat by approximately 8,000 votes and served until he died of a heart attack in 1958.[citation needed] He was sworn in on November 29, 1954, instead of the following January, as he was filling a vacant seat. In December he voted to censure Senator Joseph McCarthy.[2] As senator, Scott moved away from his previously moderate views on race. He was a signatory of the Southern Manifesto, objecting to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students are unconstitutional. According to Scott's executive secretary Bill Cochrane, Scott attempted to remove his name from the manifesto before it was read on the floor of the Senate, but it was too late.[citation needed] Reacting directly to the Brown ruling, Kerr expressed his wish that the Supreme Court "would reaffirm its own historic decisions approving equal, but separate, school facilities." He added, "I have always...been opposed to Negro and white children going to school together."[3] Scott also opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and President Eisenhower's decision to send troops to escort black students to Little Rock Central High School.[4]

Scott died in Burlington, North Carolina on April 16, 1958, and is buried in Hawfields Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Mebane, North Carolina. His son, Robert Scott, was also elected governor in the 1960s.

The W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir in Wilkes County, North Carolina are named in honor of the governor.[5] While Senator, he greatly assisted in obtaining approval for construction of the dam and reservoir. In addition, a residence hall is named in his memory on the campus of East Carolina University and a technology building on the campus of Appalachian State University is named for him.

His home and farm, the Kerr Scott Farm, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.[6]

See also

Citations

  1. ^ "Proposed Highway Name Honors Store Owner". Greensboro News & Record. 5 May 1995.
  2. ^ Covington & Ellis 1999, p. 145.
  3. ^ McKinney 2010, p. 73.
  4. ^ Pleasants, Julian M. The Political Career of W. Kerr Scott: The Squire From Haw River (University Press of Kentucky; 2014), Chapter 10.
  5. ^ Byrd, Fay (19 October 2010). Wilkes County Bits and Pieces. Lulu.com. p. 328. ISBN 978-0-557-49244-2.
  6. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.

References

  • Covington, Howard E., Jr; Ellis, Marion A. (1999). Terry Sanford: Politics, Progress, and Outrageous Ambitions. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822323563.
  • McKinney, Charles W., Jr. (2010). Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina. University Press of America. ISBN 9780761852315.

Further reading

  • Pleasants, Julian M. The Political Career of W. Kerr Scott: The Squire From Haw River (University Press of Kentucky; 2014) 406 pages

External links


Political offices
Preceded by
R. Gregg Cherry
Governor of North Carolina
1949–1953
Succeeded by
William B. Umstead
Preceded by
William A. Graham, Jr.,
13th North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture
1923 – 1937
Succeeded by
David S. Coltrane
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Alton Asa Lennon
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from North Carolina
1954–1958
Served alongside: Sam Ervin
Succeeded by
Benjamin Everett Jordan
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