By Reginald Stuart
Nashville’s historic role in higher education was this month set to open a new chapter, when Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, appointed Georgia Representative David Scott as new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee starting in January.
Rep.Scott, a strong advocate for years of federal land grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBUCs), of which Tennessee State University is one, is the first Black person to chair the powerful federal legislative panel.
The Committee helps set policies and rules for myriad federal agriculture programs from food quality standards for all to food stamp, school lunch and nutrition programs for the elderly and poor.
“I was born on my grandparent’s farm in rural Aynor, South Carolina, during the days of segregation, and the hardships of those on whose shoulders I now stand,” said Rep. Scott, elected a Georgia U.S. Representative in Congress in 2003. He has since been a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, becoming an advocate for rural and urban farmers, the poor and needy and advocate for HBCUs.
“I owe this historic selection to this diverse coalition of (House) members from across our nation,” said Rep. Scott, who was recommended to Rep. Pelosi by the House Caucus Committee choosing committee Chairs for the next term of Congress.
In a statement acknowledging his selection, Rep. Scott pledged “to use this gavel to represent the values of our entire caucus and advance our priorities for trade, disaster aid and climate change.”
Rep. Scott’s selection drew widespread praise.
“Congressman David Scott is well deserving of this honor, and Speaker Pelosi is to be commended for making this historic appointment,” said Dr. Glenda Glover, president of Nashville, Tennessee State University. “Congressman Scott has worked on key funding legislation to help HBCUs fulfill their mission, and particularly 1890 institutions, including Tennessee State,” she said.
“TSU has been able to provide scholarships to academically talented students and conduct groundbreaking research in agriculture with global impact as a result of his leadership,” said Dr. Glover, a Memphis native who has also earned a MBA and law degree. “We look forward to his visionary leadership in this key position as chair of the House Agriculture Committee.”
Noting Rep. Scott’s history of embracing HBCUs from the start as a Florida A & M student, Dr. Makola M. Abdullah, president of Norfolk State University, one of the original 1890 federal land grant colleges like Tennessee State, spoke highly of Rep. Scott.
President Abdullah characterized Rep. Scott as a “long time champion of HBCUSs and 1890 institutions created under the 2nd Morrill Act of the United States.
“He has really shown his support,” Dr. Abdullah said, citing Rep. Scotts’ successful push in 2018 for $80 million dollars in federal aid for HBCUs and his support throughout this year for emergency aid for HBCUS rooted in financial losses and the cost of converting to on-line teaching due to the deadly corona virus pandemic.
The 1890 legislation gave federal land to states that would not admit Black students to their state supported institutions of higher learning. Those barriers began to fall after the civil rights demonstrations of the mid-1900s.
Rep. Scott has a rich history dating to his days of growing up on his grandparent’s farm in rural South Carolina. After high school, he attended and graduated from Florida A & M University and, in 1969, earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
After graduate school, he began pursuing his interests in the political power of positive change campaigning for young Atlanta civil rights worker Andrew Young, who later became a Congressman and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. A decade later Rep. Scott was a state lawmaker eventually running for Congress himself.