John Wyeth "Jock" Scott, II (June 29, 1947 - April 25, 2009) was a lawyer and college professor in Alexandria, who served three terms from District 26 in the Louisiana House of Representatives, first as a Democrat (1976-1985) and then as a Republican (1985-1988). He was defeated in a race for the Louisiana State Senate in 1987. He also lost two bids for the United States House of Representatives: a 1985 special election, when he ran as a Democrat, and in the 2004 nonpartisan blanket primary for the Fifth Congressional District, when he challenged fellow Republican U.S. Representative Rodney Alexander of Quitman in Jackson Parish.
Scott was born in Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish and the largest city in Central Louisiana, to Nauman Steele Scott, II, (1916-2001) and Blanche Hammond Scott (1920-1985). He graduated from Bolton High School in Alexandria in 1965. One of his classmates was another future Louisiana state legislator, Charles W. DeWitt, Jr., from neighboring District 25. The two were House colleagues from 1980-1988. DeWitt, later Speaker of the Louisiana House, said that Scott always worked for the betterment of the public, not for his personal financial gain.
In 1969, Scott received his bachelor of arts degree from Tulane University in New Orleans. He obtained his law degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He was in law school at the time that U.S. President Richard M. Nixon named Scott's Republican father to a new Alexandria-based U.S. District judgeship. Scott had been married since 1970 to the former Cynthia "Cyndy" Henderson (born 1948), a speech pathologist whom he had first met while she was a student at the since defunct St. Mary's Dominican College in New Orleans. Scott was the father of three grown children, Natalie Seeling and her husband, Michael, of Alexandria, John W. Scott, III, and his wife, Kristin, of Trinidad, and Elizabeth Scott of San Francisco, California. He had two young grandsons too, John W. Scott, IV, and William Henderson Seeling.
1 Legislative election,
2 A House reformer,
3 His last election victory,
4 First congressional defeat,
5 A state senate bid,
6 Family tragedy,
7 Making LSU-Alexandria a four-year institution,
8 Losing to Rodney Alexander, 2004,
9 Affiliations and charitable work,
10 Death and legacy,
In 1975, in the first-ever Louisiana nonpartisan blanket primary, Scott was elected to the District 26 House seat, which primarily covers the city of Alexandria and some surrounding points. He succeeded fellow Democrat Edward Gordon "Ned" Randolph, Jr., who gave up the position after a single term to contest a Louisiana Senate seat in the same election cycle. Scott defeated Lloyd George Teekell, later a 9th Judicial District judge who had served earlier in the state House from 1953 to 1960. Scott polled 3,908 votes (54.7 percent) to Teekell's 3,233 ballots (45.3 percent). Randolph, meanwhile, unseated four-term Democratic State Senator Cecil R. Blair of Lecompte in south Rapides Parish.
Randolph, five years Scott's senior, is also a Bolton High school graduate and an attorney. Randolph and Scott quickly acquired reputations as "reformers" or "Young Turks" in the Louisiana legislature. They often disagreed with legislative leaders who wanted more spending than the state's receipts would permit. In 1976, Randolph and Scott headed the Greater Alexandria campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter of Georgia, who won majorities in Rapides Parish (54 percent) and statewide (53 percent) as well.
Though a Carter supporter, Scott broke with the presidential candidate over the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. He cast a key vote in 1976 in the House Civil Law Committee against the ERA. He had been expected to vote to send ERA to the full House but reversed himself. His reason was concern that women would be subject to any future military conscription.
A House reformer:
Scott authored new House rules to require that new bills be printed and distributed to House members before referral to committees and to mandate the fiscal impact of such proposed legislation could consideration by the House. Scott authored legislation that was eventually enacted to require a priority system for funding capital outlay projects, a system that included the requirement that all such projects undergo needs assessment evaluations. This law challenged the governor's traditional control over the capital outlay budget, a system by which the governor could bargain for legislative votes by rewarding cooperative lawmakers with projects in their districts. The battle for reform included a 1978 victory by Scott and his colleagues when they succeeded in the House in defeating Edwards's capital outlay bill, the only time a Louisiana governor had faced such a challenge to his authority.
Thereafter Scott and Edwards clashed often over political and spending issues regarding capital outlay, state budgeting and appropriations, tax issues, and other fiscal matters. Scott began introducing his own capital outlay and appropriations bills, normally the exclusive domain of the governor and legislative floor leaders. Scott's purpose, he declared at the time, was to demonstrate that millions could be saved if merit prevailed over political considerations in the budget process.
Scott was reelected to his legislative seat as a Democrat. He polled 7,419 votes (76.9 percent) in the primary held on October 27, 1979. His intraparty opponent, former Alexandria Finance and Utilities Commissioner Arnold Jack Rosenthal (1923-2010), received 2,229 votes (23.1 percent). Rosenthal had been an unsuccessful candidate for state senator in the 1971 Democratic primary and for mayor of Alexandria in the 1977 nonpartisan blanket primary. Though he had been a delegate to the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Rosenthal had endorsed President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., in the 1976 election in which Scott was organizing voters for Carter.
Scott became chairman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee during his second term (1980-1984). He had helped his colleague John Hainkel of New Orleans become Speaker of the House. Hainkel had the support of incoming Republican Governor David C. Treen. Scott served on Hainkel's House Executive Committee and would also direct the procedure for state House and congressional reapportionment. Meanwhile, in an uprising of fiscal conservatives, Scott won a surprise victory in 1980 over the Gillis Long and Edwin Edwards forces in the Democratic State Central Committee by winning the post of national committeeman.
His last election victory:
On October 23, 1983, Scott was elected to his last term in the legislature. Still a Democrat, he defeated two intraparty opponents in the nonpartisan blanket primary. Scott polled 6,458 of the 11,076 votes cast in the race, or 58.3 percent. An African American candidate, the Reverend Errol Dorsey, drew 1,780 votes (16.1 percent), and the attorney Christopher J. Roy, Sr., a law partner of the legendary Alexandrian Camille F. Gravel, Jr., and father of future Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy and State Representative Chris Roy, Jr., polled 2,838 votes (25.6 percent).
In 1980, Judge Nauman Scott ordered cross-parish busing, school consolidations, some school closures, and the reassignment of principals to increase the level of desegregation in Rapides Parish schools, contrary to the wishes of many citizens in the outlying Wards 10 and 11, including the area served by Buckeye High School. Years later, referring to his father's desegregation ruling, Scott said that his father's "primary concern was always the children of Rapides Parish or whatever school system he was working with... I know the people who hated him would not believe that. He tried to protect the people who had been discriminated against and to protect the schools." Scott also predicted that his father, had he lived, would have been satisfied with the 2006 decision by Judge Dee D. Drell of Alexandria to end the desegregation lawsuit against the Rapides Parish School Board.
Despite the unpopularity of Judge Scott's orders among the more conservative voters, Jock Scott, as a Democrat, won a third term in the legislature in 1983 even as Edwin Washington Edwards procured a comeback third term as governor by handily unseating Treen. Randolph, however, was defeated for a third term in the state senate. Three years later, Randolph resurrected his political career by winning the first of five consecutive terms as mayor of Alexandria, a position from which he retired on December 4, 2006.
In 1987, Scott was named "National Legislator of the Year" by the National Republican Legislators Association.
First congressional defeat:
Early in 1985, while he was still a Democrat, Jock Scott ran in the special election to choose a successor to Congressman Gillis Long (1923-1985), who died at the time of President Ronald W. Reagan's second inauguration. Scott faced Long's widow, the former Catherine Small, a native of Dayton, Ohio, and Clyde C. Holloway, a conservative Republican who operated a tree nursery in Forest Hill, south of Alexandria, who had strongly opposed Judge Scott's desegregation orders and was making his second bid for Congress. Mrs. Long won the position outright with 61,791 votes (55.7 percent) to Scott's 27,138 ballots (24.5 percent), and Holloway's 18,013 votes (16.3 percent). Cathy Long did not seek a full term in 1986. Scott, by then a Republican, was personally asked in the White House by President Reagan to seek the office. For undisclosed reasons, Scott declined to run. Holloway then went on to take the seat for the first of three consecutive terms.
Scott's third term in the Louisiana House featured more battles over fiscal and tax policy against Governor Edwards. He had authored two successful tax reduction measures under the Treen administration, including inflation indexing of state income taxes, something Reagan had promoted at the national level, and a measure that reduced state income taxes by one-third across the board.
A state senate bid:
The "reformer" Scott became a Republican in the latter half of 1985. So did a colleague from Monroe, John C. Ensminger. Scott would have run for governor in 1987 had he, rather than U.S. Representative Bob Livingston of Louisiana's 1st congressional district received the official endorsement of the state GOP that year.
In 1987, Scott instead ran for the District 29 state senate seat previously held by his colleague, Ned Randolph, who had become mayor of Alexandria. It was Edward J. Steimel, the founding president of the Baton Rouge-based trade association, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry or LABI, who urged Scott to make the senatorial race. Like Randolph four years earlier, however, Scott was defeated by the Democrat William Joseph "Joe" McPherson, Jr., a businessman from Pineville, later Woodworth. McPherson, who finally retired from the seat in 2012, carried the backing of Louisiana AFL-CIO President Victor Bussie. McPherson polled 16,950 (51 percent) in the primary and hence retained the seat outright. Scott trailed with 12,346 votes (37 percent). Former state senator Cecil Blair sought a comeback but netted only 4,245 votes (13 percent).
Years later, Scott attributed his defeat to both McPherson's tough electioneering and the unpopularity of Judge Scott's desegregation orders in rural portions of Rapides Parish. Scott's state House seat also reverted to Democratic hands: Charles Herring, an Alexandria chiropractor, held the seat for a single term. Since 1992, the District 26 seat has been held by an African American Democrat, Israel "Bo" Curtis and then Herbert Dixon.
In Scott's own words in 2006: "I had decided to sit out the 1987 elections after my struggles with Edwards during those difficult legislative years... I needed a break. Then Edward Steimel talked me into the state senate race against McPherson. Very harsh race and very difficult for me in the country precincts with the unpopularity of desegregation/busing orders by my father... plus Joe is a very tough candidate. ... I had become a Republican. So that was the end for me."
While McPherson has defeated both Randolph and Scott, the one Republican who has defeated McPherson is Holloway, who beat him in the 1990 congressional primary and again in the 2009 special election for the Louisiana Public Service Commission. Until 2009, the 1990 congressional election has been Holloway's last victory.
Scott's older brother, Nauman Steele Scott, III, (born 1945) died on January 8, 2002, four months after the death of their father, Judge Scott. Nauman, III, was a lawyer in New Orleans and co-owner with the third Scott brother, Arthur Hammond Scott (born 1950), of the former Black Top Records, which preserved much of the rhythm and blues music culture.
Judge Scott died a week after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Mrs. Blanche Scott preceded Judge Scott in death by sixteen years.
Making LSU-Alexandria a four-year institution:
After his legislative service ended, Scott, who has great interest in United States and Louisiana history, obtained both his Master of Arts and Ph.D. degrees from LSU in Baton Rouge in the field of history. He maintained a part-time law practice in Alexandria and was also an assistant professor of history at the newly four-year institution, Louisiana State University at Alexandria, having since 1985 taught both U.S. and Louisiana history. He taught part-time at Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. In 1986, Scott penned a novel entitled To the Victor: A Novel of Louisiana Politics in which some of the characters are modeled on real politicians. To the Victor was published by Claitor's in Baton Rouge. He also wrote scholarly history articles.
In the spring of 2001, Scott served as chairman of "Friends of LSUA," which worked successfully to make the institution a four-year degree-granting university. Chancellor Robert Cavanaugh saluted Scott in the school's 2003 commencement exercises: "Jock worked many, many long hours and used his legislative experience to usher Senate Bill 853 which created four-year status for LSUA through the legislature.";
LSUA honored Scott in 2003 with its "Distinguished Service Award," the highest honor the university bestows on members of the Central Louisiana community. Scott was the eighth recipient of the honor, which recognizes his active participation in efforts to promote the advancement and support of the institution; recognition as a leader throughout the community, with an interest in the quality of education provided by LSUA; an exemplary record of service to higher education and to the community at large; and contributions of time, talents and/or financial resources to benefit the university.
Losing to Rodney Alexander, 2004:
In 2004, seventeen years after his last campaign, Scott announced that he would launch a Republican challenge to incumbent Democratic Congressman Rodney Alexander. Alexander had been a narrow winner - 974 votes out of 172,462 votes cast - in 2002 over the young businessman Dewey Lee Fletcher of Monroe. National Republican leaders at first agreed to support Scott.
Then, minutes before the filing deadline, and after he had already filed for reelection as a Democrat, Alexander switched parties. His action left the Democrats without a credible candidate in the race and undercut Scott's chances as well. Alexander in particular angered the state's two powerful Democratic U.S. senators, John Breaux (who had announced his retirement) and Mary Landrieu (reelected to a second and third terms in 2002 and 2008), because they had worked for Alexander in his race against Lee Fletcher. Many Louisiana Democrats called Alexander "cowardly" for his last-minute party switch.
Scott remained in the race as an unendorsed Republican, but GOP leaders, including then Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, coalesced quickly behind Alexander. The National Republican Congressional Committee demanded that Scott leave the race. Party leaders even denied him the right to speak at campaign events. He could not raise enough funds to counter Alexander's advantage of incumbency.
Scott said that the national leadership had "gone to elected officials who had endorsed me and gotten them to change their minds." Still, Scott said he was not unhappy with his party but could not appreciate the way they handled his race. "Sometimes even good organizations make faux pas. They're using their time, their talent, their money in a way that could be better used in a district where Republicans and Democrats are opposing each other... . I would assume that they have bigger fish to fry than little 'ol Jock Scott," he said.
Scott proposed that the north-south Interstate 49, which links Shreveport with Lafayette through Alexandria be completed, as originally planned, so that there would be a northeastern link as well from Monroe to Alexandria - now U.S. Highway 165. He vowed if elected to work for such highway funding.
Scott's hometown newspaper, the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, which in the 1960s and 1970s, under then managing editor Adras LaBorde (1912-1993) had pointedly refused to endorse candidates, editorially supported Scott's congressional bid. According to the Town Talk, Scott "offers relevant experience, deep knowledge of the issues and high energy. The Fifth Congressional District needs all of that. The district needs a representative who can leverage the significant economic development happening in and around Alexandria and Pineville while providing new thinking to help jump-start its lagging areas.
"Scott's ambitious proposal to build an interstate highway from Alexandria to Monroe is new thinking, for sure. Although the proposal is not practical at this time, it is aimed directly at one of the district's biggest problems: highways. It also shows an appetite for innovation, and that can help a district that is hungry to grow.
"Likewise, his desire to add his voice to national issues is refreshing. He strongly supports President George W. Bush's aggressive stance against terrorism, but laments that the war in Iraq has become so political. "Scott ... understands the complex challenges facing the district and the nation. That will serve him well as a member of Congress."
Not only did Scott obtain the newspaper's backing, but its former publisher Joe D. Smith, Jr., of Alexandria was a generous donor to Scott's campaign. Another who contributed to Scott was former Democratic State Senator B.G. Dyess of Rapides Parish.
Republican Scott ran third in the race with 37,971 votes (16 percent). His only strong showing was in Rapides Parish, where he polled 14,379 votes, but even there Alexander outpolled him with 23,958 ballots. Zelma "Tisa" Blakes, a black Democratic womanes, finished second in district balloting with 58,591 votes (25 percent). Alexander prevailed with 141,495 (59 percent). Alexander was presumably aided by his incumbency and the presence of the second President Bush, an easy winner in Louisiana, at the head of the Republican ticket.
Affiliations and charitable work:
Scott was a member of the Louisiana and American bar associations, having served as treasurer, vice-president, and then president of the Louisiana Bar Foundation. He was also affiliated with the American, Southern, and Louisiana historical associations, the Rapides Arts and Humanities Council, and the Alexandria Rotary Club. He was a former vice-president of the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce, and he was state chairman of the United States Supreme Court Historical Society.
During Hurricane Katrina, Scott volunteered his time to organize the acquisition and distribution of medical supplies in Alexandria and to restore St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Port Sulphur. He also volunteered at Grace House, an outreach for the homeless at the Pentecostal Church in Alexandria. He hosted a weekly scriptural presentation on Radio Maria, a Catholic radio station, which airs internationally. At the time of his death, he was preparing to become a deacon in Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church in Alexandria.
Death and legacy:
Scott collapsed on April 25, 2009, while he was working in his yard at his residence on Jackson Street in Alexandria, according to his secretary, Debbie Harper.
Former legislative colleague Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge recalled his friend as one who was "always ready to stand up for good government, frugal administration, lower taxes, the rule of law, and justice for all ... ever a guardian of the rights of people. He was fearless, ready to take on any governor or powerful group that threatened the best interests of the state. He made us all laugh ... and think."
John L. Bradas, a veteran figure in the Rapides Parish Republican Party and a former member of the parish police jury, hailed Scott as a "gentleman scholar ... a true civic and community leader ... an asset to the Republican Party who will be sadly missed."
State Republican Chairman Roger F. Villere, Jr., of Metairie termed Scott "a pioneer of the conservative movement in Louisiana ... His efforts to eliminate wasteful spending and commitment to reducing taxes were an inspiration to conservatives across the state, and I'm proud to have served with him on the Republican State Central Committee." After having been his state's Democratic national committeeman in the early 1980s, Scott subsequently served on the state GOP Central Committee.
In addition to his political and law careers, Scott penned Natalie Scott: A Magnificent Life, a 2008 biography of his great-aunt, who was awarded France's highest combat medal and worked on the front lines of World War I and World War II through the Red Cross. In writing the book, an updating of his doctoral dissertation, Scott researched boxes of materials donated to the Tulane archives: "I was hooked from the first file. It's really a spiritual journey."
In addition to his wife, three children, and two grandsons, Scott was survived by his younger brother, Hammond Scott, and his wife, Wendy Cooper Scott, of New Orleans, and their daughter, Morgan Nina Petersen, and his sister, Ashley Scott Rankin, and her husband, B.M. "Mack" Rankin of Dallas, Texas. Services were held on April 30 (Louisiana Statehood Day) at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church in Alexandria, with Scott's cousin, the Reverend LaVerne "Pike" Thomas, officiating. Interment was at Greenwood Memorial Park in Pineville. Scott's parents are interred at Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license