In a historic moment that defied expectations and marked a significant milestone for Virginia, Don Scott was sworn in as the state’s first African American Speaker of the House of Delegates. For William Ferguson Reid, the first Black person elected to the Virginia General Assembly since Reconstruction in 1890, witnessing this moment was both surprising and immensely gratifying.
Reid, a Richmond native, played a pivotal role in the voter registration efforts for Black citizens through the Richmond Crusade for Voters, a movement he co-founded in 1956. His dedication to empowering Black voters eventually led him to run for a seat in the House, which he won in 1967, serving until 1973.
The historic ascent of Don Scott to the position of Speaker of the House came as a shock to Reid, who vividly recalls the racial segregation and resistance in Virginia’s political landscape. While Reid anticipated the election of more Black representatives to the Senate and House, the notion of a Black man leading the Virginia House of Delegates seemed improbable in a once racially-segregated state.
Scott, upon taking his oath, acknowledged the giants whose shoulders he stands on, with specific references to Reid and L. Douglas Wilder, who became the state’s first African-American governor in 1989.
Reid expressed pride in Virginia’s evolving stance on issues of redemption, integration, and voting rights restoration. He noted Scott’s journey from incarceration on federal drug charges to election as Speaker as emblematic of the state’s progress in these areas.
Offering advice to Don Scott in his new role, Reid emphasized the importance of fairness and harmony, urging him to govern without partiality and to foster cooperation between Republicans and Democrats. As Virginia continues on its path of change and progress, Scott’s historic appointment serves as a beacon of hope and a testament to the state’s commitment to inclusivity and redemption.