Hugh Scott; Senate GOP Leader During Watergate
Hugh Scott, who served as Republican leader in the Senate during the Watergate years, has died at 93. He had represented Pennsylvania in Congress, as a House member and senator, for 34 years.
Scott died Thursday of cardiac arrest in a retirement home in Falls Church, Va., a Washington suburb.
“He died peacefully in his sleep,” said his longtime secretary, Janet Horgan.
Scott was elected to the House of Representatives in 1940 and to the Senate in 1958. He served three Senate terms. His tenure as minority leader began in 1969 when Richard Nixon became president.
Nixon resigned in 1974; Scott remained in the Senate until his retirement in 1977.
On Watergate, Scott often urged Nixon to come clean to save his presidency. Scott said in December, 1973, that Nixon would not get out of the Watergate “mess” unless he fulfilled a promise to disclose all records and tape recordings related to the scandal.
Later, in 1974, Scott urged Pennsylvanians to remember that “the horrible, shabby and most unfortunate Watergate mess was not the doing of the Republican Party.”
While a member of the House, representing Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, Scott served as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Rarely pictured without a pipe in his mouth, the partisan but affable Scott was a calming influence on his party during the years of Vietnam War protests and Watergate.
A native Virginian who moved to Philadelphia after law school, he was at once staunchly supportive of the GOP and able to forge alliances with Democrats and change with the times.
For example, as chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1948, Scott rallied fiercely against Democratic “commie coddling” and “big government.” Two decades later, he proposed a joint U.S.-Soviet space venture and later he and Democratic Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey met with Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev in Russia.
Scott was a staunch supporter of the Vietnam War during the terms of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, but parted with the Nixon Administration by calling for a unilateral U.S. cease-fire in 1969. He later modified his stance to say he was interested in a mutual cease-fire.
“I wouldn’t have anything in my life to be proud of if I hadn’t had many an occasion to grow and to change my mind,” Scott said in a 1984 interview.
Scott had a penchant for turning an acerbic phrase.
During his Senate years, he accused Alabama Gov. George Wallace of practicing “jackassery” on civil rights. Nearing 70 years old, he told a Democratic challenger in 1970 to “come down here and see if he can keep up with me.”
After serving eight terms in the House, Scott was elected to the Senate in 1958 and reelected in 1964 and 1970. He decided not to seek reelection in 1976 under the cloud of a Senate probe into allegations that he received illegal cash contributions from Gulf Oil Co.