There’s a new Speaker in the House

1/11/2024, 6 p.m.
It’s official.

It’s official.

Amanda Pittman, press secretary, Office of the Speaker of the House of Delegates, penned it perfectly in a news release shortly after House Speaker Don Scott’s historical swearing-in on the opening day of the 2024 Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday.

“Today marks the opening of the 2024 legislative session in Virginia. Newly elected delegates and their friends and family filled the House chamber and gallery to witness the swearing-in of the first Black Speaker of the House of Delegates,” she wrote.

“In the years since his election to the House of Delegates, Delegate Don Scott from Portsmouth has established himself as a bold leader, and willing collaborator, Ms. Pittman continued. “As leader of the Virginia House Democrats, he was proud to work across the aisle to ensure bipartisan support of critical bills to move the Commonwealth forward.”

Having represented Portsmouth since 2020, Speaker Scott was elected Minority Leader in 2022.

Following last fall’s elections, he was unanimously nominated by his caucus to serve as the first Black Speaker in the history of the House of Delegates.

A veteran of the U.S. Navy and a law partner at Breit Biniazan P.C., he is active in his community, and serves on several boards and commissions.

No stranger to adversity, Speaker Scott is a shining example of one who has overcome obstacles, including imprisonment for seven years on federal drug charges.

A July 14, 2022, Free Press article chronicled how the Houston native who was raised in poverty became the first Black legislator to serve as House Minority Leader. The article, titled “Being underestimated … that’s my superpower,” hinted at his likely ascension to the Speaker role if the Democrats regained control in 2023.

They did and so did he.

But before the 58-year-old Speaker Scott stepped into his newest role, flashbacks to his infamous floor speech two years ago further provided clues of his might and will.

The then-Delegate Scott questioned the newly inaugurated Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Christian faith and accused him of sowing division because of the executive orders the governor signed during his first few days in office. Those orders included a ban on teaching any “divisive concepts,” a ban on critical race theory, for creating a parents’ tip line and using race overall as a political tool.

“I understand you found a winning issue, critical race theory, once again using the old Southern strategy to use race as a wedge issue,” Delegate Scott said on the House floor in January 2022 to the entire chamber.

“I am going to implore us to stop using Black people and critical race theory as a political tool and start governing.”

A subsequent speech after meeting with Gov. Youngkin to discuss the previous speech also helped set the stage for Delegate Scott’s unlikely rise to leadership, but the delegate unwittingly has been building on this moment for years,” wrote Lisa Vernon Sparks for the Free Press.

Fast forward to yesterday. Following his nomination by Democrat Luke Torian and a motion seconded by Republican Terry Austin, Speaker Scott, who never is at a loss for words, thanked his wife, Dr. Mellanda Colson-Scott, his daughter, Peyton and his mother, Helen.

“It is an honor and privilege to be elected by my peers as the first Black Speaker of the House of Delegates,” he said. “Four hundred and five years after the founding of the longest, continuous democratily—elected body in the western hemisphere was founded.

“Also, four hundred and five years after the first enslaved people arrived—not far from here down in Hampton Roads, Virginia. I know I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me.

“There’s something about being the first to do something. I think about the folks that I look up to personally—who I still count as friends, who are brilliant. They are legislators, they are jurists, they are now colleagues and peers - and they have served in this body.

“And every time I look around this room I see the ghosts of those people who worked here, who may have been enslaved here, whose dignity and humanity was discounted right here in this room. I see those people.

“I think about all of the people who never got their rights heard by people sitting in these seats centuries ago.

“I can imagine how proud they would be to see all the people who now serve in this chamber looking back at me. From different backgrounds, different faith traditions, different races, and ethnicities. And so many other differences that make our Commonwealth so very rich.”

Well said, Speaker Scott. Well said.

We at the Richmond Free Press wish you all the best moving forward.