Virginia legislature elects first Black Speaker of the House
Portsmouth-area Delegate Don Scott became the first Black Speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates when the 2024 legislative session opened Wednesday.
It was a tearful ceremony as Scott took control of the oldest continuously elected body in the Western Hemisphere.
“I think about all the people who never got their rights heard by people in this chamber," he said after taking the reins of the chamber. "Thank God the Commonwealth has turned the page. Thank God."
Northern Virginia Delegate Luke Torian nominated Scott to the position as part of the ceremony. The Democrat noted the Virginia capital was founded on the backs of those who looked like Scott.
“It is probably only right and fitting and appropriate that 400 years later, a person of color, an African American, whose ancestors helped build this capital, is now set to lead this House of Delegates,” he said.
Scott was elected unanimously after Democrats won both chambers of the state house last fall. But in a sign of bipartisanship, Botetourt County Republican Delegate Terry Austin seconded his nomination.
"Delegate Scott, I know you’ll be a fair and strong speaker," Austin said. "Even when we don’t see eye to eye on policy, I firmly believe, through your leadership, we’ll work together.”
And while Scott’s staff was among those weeping with joy in the back of the packed House chamber, few were as proud of the new Speaker as Helen Scott, the delegate’s mother, who came from Houston to watch her son be sworn in.
“I don’t know how to tell you how I’m feeling right now. It’s a feeling everyone should have,” she said before hoping he'd do good for those who need it.
In closing his speech, Scott said the body would inevitably have disagreements, sometimes passionate ones, but he promised to lead fairly and give bills that make it to the floor a chance for debate.