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Scott, Hugh Doggett, Jr.

Scott, Hugh Doggett, Jr.

(b. 11 November 1900 in Fredericksburg, Virginia; d. 21 July 1994 in Falls Church, Virginia), three-term U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Senate Republican leader during the Nixon and Ford administrations, and prominent member of his party’s moderate wing.

Scott, the only child of Hugh Doggett Scott, Sr., a banker, and Jane Lee Lewis, was born on an estate that once had belonged to George Washington. Although Scott became a strong voice for civil rights, one of his great-grandfathers fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Scott once noted that, since his ancestors had emigrated from England in 1621, a politician had emerged in his family “every other generation,” among them President Zachary Taylor. Scott said he became interested in a political career during his youth, when he watched committee hearings in the Virginia House of Delegates. His father remarried after the death of Scott’s mother and had two more children.

After attending public elementary and secondary schools in Fredericksburg, Scott received a bachelor’s degree from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, in 1919 and a law degree from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1922. To help pay for his studies, he clerked in a retail store and worked on construction crews. In 1922 Scott moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he entered a law practice with his uncle Edwin O. Lewis. Scott married Marian Huntington Chase on 12 April 1924. They had one daughter. From 1926 until 1941 he served as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and prosecuted more than 20,000 cases. During this period Scott became active in Republican politics.

Scott, who was of medium height, grew a mustache as a young man to make himself look older. He wore hornrimmed glasses and was a pipe smoker with a collection of several hundred pipes.

Scott was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1940 from a northwest Philadelphia congressional district. He served until 1959 except for a two-year interval when he was defeated in 1944. He won back the congressional seat in 1946. During the two-year interval, Scott served in the U.S. Navy in the central and western Pacific during World War II and was discharged on 9 April 1946 with the rank of commander.

As a member of the House, Scott voted for the abolition of the poll tax and supported lend-lease aid to Britain prior to U.S. entry into World War II, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the Taft-Hartley Act. He also backed the Twenty-second Amendment limiting presidential tenures to two terms.

Scott, a shrewd strategist and tactician, played a major role in presidential politics for more than a generation. In 1940 he was among the organizers who helped Wendell L. Willkie win the presidential nomination. Eight years later Scott was chosen by the presidential nominee Thomas E. Dewey as the Republican national chairman. “I recommended a vigorous campaign and was very much startled when Dewey told me his other advisers had recommended a low-key campaign and that he never mention Truman by name,” Scott recalled in a 1973 interview. Shortly after Dewey’s loss, Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio tried to make Scott the scapegoat and called for his recall as chairman. At a showdown meeting of the national committee, Scott insisted that Dewey’s play-it-safe strategy had been a mistake. By a narrow margin, he survived a no-confidence vote. Scott resigned as chairman in August 1949.

While General Dwight D. Eisenhower was serving in France as supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Scott went to Paris in 1951 and urged Eisenhower to seek the 1952 Republican presidential nomination. “He was very definitely in the inner circle,” Milton S. Eisenhower said in 1975. “My brother paid a great deal of attention to his suggestions.” Following Dwight Eisenhower’s election as president, Scott remained among his stalwart allies. On congressional roll calls he voted with Eisenhower 97 percent of the time.

Offended by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s wild charges and reckless vilification of public figures, Scott denounced his fellow Republican as a “noisy obstructionist” and “grandstander.” As a member of the House Rules Committee, Scott proposed a “fair-play code” that would have allowed witnesses before congressional committees to testify in their own behalf and to have the right to cross-examine their accusers. The Republican congressional leadership blocked Scott’s initiative, however.

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958, Scott became the first Pennsylvanian to win three terms by popular vote. During the Democratic administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Scott provided key bipartisan support for the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was also an early supporter of U.S. military intervention in Vietnam, although he became disillusioned with the war during the Nixon administration.

In January 1969 Scott was elected Senate minority whip with the support of the party’s moderate wing and over the opposition of the Republican leader Everett M. Dirksen. When Dirksen died in September of that year, Scott moved up to the minority leadership and held this position until his retirement in 1977. He was the first liberal Republican to hold the party floor leadership since World War II. Scott opposed President Richard M. Nixon’s nomination of Judge Clement Haynsworth to the Supreme Court and the administration’s efforts to weaken the Voting Rights Act.

During the Watergate scandal Scott defended Nixon but also urged him to make public all tapes of his White House conversations. Following the release of these tapes, mandated by a court order, Scott was appalled when they disclosed that Nixon had planned the cover-up. After Scott and Senator Barry Goldwater told Nixon that he was certain to be impeached, the president decided to resign.

Scott had a more collegial relationship with President Gerald R. Ford, having spent five years as Ford’s partner in the Republican congressional leadership when Ford was the House minority leader. Scott was influential in Ford’s selection of Nelson A. Rockefeller for the vice presidency. In 1976 Scott chose not to seek reelection after he was accused of accepting $45,000 from lobbyists for the Gulf Oil Corporation. Scott said the funds had been for his campaign and denied that the money had gone to personal use. A federal probe was dropped when Scott announced his retirement.

On leaving the Senate, he practiced law in Washington, D.C., and his clients included the governments of Japan, Pakistan, and Thailand. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as a cochair of a committee that revised the Panama Canal treaties. Scott retired from his law practice in 1987 and two years later was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd as a member of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Senate. In his final years, he had Parkinson’s disease and suffered a major stroke. He died of a heart attack at Goodwin House West, a retirement home, at the age of ninety-three. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Scott, who was a skillful builder of coalitions, was an articulate spokesman for his party. As a Senate leader, he put the national interest above narrow partisanship and was respected by colleagues in Democratic and Republican parties alike.

The Scott papers are at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Scott wrote two memoirs, How to Go into Politics (1949) and Come to the Party (1968). He is profiled in Steve Neal, “The Artful Dodger,” Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine (29 Apr. 1973); and in Steve Neal, “Can Hugh Scott Tough It Out,” Mr (29 Nov. 1975). An obituary is in the New York Times (23 July 1994).

Steve Neal

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