Don Scott Makes History as the First Black House Speaker in Virginia


January 12, 2024

He’s a history maker with resilience!

In a historic moment for the Virginia House of Delegates, Democrat Don Scott has been unanimously elected as the first Black speaker. The landmark decision, reported by NPR, took place on Wednesday, with Del. Scott receiving cheers and a standing ovation as he took the oath of office. Scott’s gratitude was noticeable as he expressed his thanks to his 88-year-old mother and wife, tearing up during the emotional ceremony. The significance of the moment was not lost on him, as he acknowledged the historic nature of his election.

During the nomination speech, Del. Luke E. Torian highlighted the historical context, “Over 400 years ago, people who looked like Delegate Scott gave their sweat blood and tears to build this Capitol,” Del. Torian elaborated. “And I would say that is probably only right and fitting and appropriate that 400 years later, a person of color, an African American, whose ancestors helped to build this capital now stands to help lead this House of Delegates.”

Don Scott, a 58-year-old Navy veteran and lawyer representing Portsmouth, quickly distinguished himself in the Democratic Caucus, overcoming an unconventional path to the statehouse. In 1994, while still a law student, Scott faced a drug-related conviction, leading to nearly eight years of incarceration in federal prison.

Despite the challenges, Scott built a successful career as a trial lawyer, gaining public attention due to his unconventional journey. In 2018, a local reporter uncovered Scott’s past, prompting him to run for office. He won his first race for the Virginia House in 2019, advocating for criminal justice reform, shaped by his experiences on both sides of the legal system.


Scott’s childhood in Texas, raised by a single mother struggling to make ends meet, fueled his determination. Serving in the Navy, attending law school, and facing a federal conviction, he emerged resilient. Scott entered the General Assembly in 2020, introducing legislation on criminal justice reform. Although initially facing resistance within his own Democratic party, the tragic murder of George Floyd in 2020 brought renewed attention to Scott’s proposed reforms, shifting the political landscape.

Don Scott’s journey from incarceration to becoming the first Black speaker in the Virginia House of Delegates stands as an example of resilience, determination, and the power of one individual’s commitment to justice and public service.

Cover Photo: New Virginia House of Delegates speaker, Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, left, is sworn in by Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernard Goodwyn, right / AP Photo/Steve Helber

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