Hugh Scott, A Giant In Pa. And Congress, Dies At 93 In 34 Years On Capitol Hill, He Walked With And Fought Against Presidents - And Even Helped Get Some Elected.

Posted: July 23, 1994

Hugh Scott, 93, the most powerful Philadelphia politician of this century, died yesterday at a suburban Washington retirement home.

Mr. Scott died peacefully, of cardiac arrest, in his sleep, said his longtime secretary, Janet Horgan.

He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1940, and his congressional career spanned some of the most tumultuous times in the nation's history. When Mr. Scott retired from public office on Jan. 3, 1977, he had served 34 years in Congress - 16 in the House and 18 in the Senate.

He was the only Pennsylvania senator to win three terms from the state's voters. In 1948 and 1949, he was national chairman of the Republican Party. And in his last seven years in the Senate, he served as Republican minority leader.

He was most noted for using his leadership position as a strong advocate of civil rights legislation and as a staunch defender of Richard M. Nixon during the war in Vietnam and the scandal-ridden Watergate years.

At various times, Mr. Scott was known as the Senate's most liberal conservative, its most conservative liberal, and its most extreme moderate.

"He wrote the playbook on how to accommodate the various interests of people in a big industrial state like Pennsylvania and get elected," Sen. Arlen Specter said yesterday, shortly before eulogizing Mr. Scott on the floor of the Senate. "He was a real political mentor. I admired him greatly."

Mr. Scott served through seven presidential administrations and played a key role in the 1952 election of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Born at the turn of the 20th century, Mr. Scott was a descendant of President Zachary Taylor. His interest in politics dated back to his boyhood in Virginia, where he often attended committee hearings in the state House of Delegates.

He moved to Philadelphia in 1922 after graduating from Randolph-Macon

College and the University of Virginia Law School. In 1926, he was appointed an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia. He claimed to have prosecuted more than 20,000 cases in his 14 years with that office.

His chance to run for Congress came in 1940 when elderly Rep. George P. Darrow announced that he would not seek re-election. The young prosecutor handily won the Sixth District seat to represent Northwest Philadelphia in Washington.

That same year, he endorsed Wendell Willkie for president a month before the Republican national convention. His choice drew attention, because Willkie was given virtually no chance of winning the nomination. When Willkie upset the odds, Mr. Scott, for the first of many times, had come out on the winning side.

He was re-elected in 1942 but was unseated in 1944 by Democrat Herb McGlinchey in the only election he ever lost - a 2,339-vote defeat in a war year that saw Franklin Delano Roosevelt steamroll to a fourth term.

Mr. Scott promptly joined the Navy, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Upon his return, he campaigned against the "Betrayal at Yalta" and "Reds in Washington," and beat McGlinchey by more than 23,000 votes to reclaim his House seat.

Always a fierce partisan, Mr. Scott blamed Roosevelt for Pearl Harbor in one of his early campaigns. Later, he labeled President Harry S. Truman "soft on communism."

In 1948, Mr. Scott was named chairman of the Republican National Committee by presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey. He traveled the country calling for a change after 16 years of a Democrat-controlled White House. Dewey lost, and Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio demanded Mr. Scott's recall as national chairman.

At a showdown of the GOP national committee, Mr. Scott, who actually had had little input in Dewey's campaign, criticized Dewey's political strategy and promised that Dewey would not run for president again. Mr. Scott survived a no-confidence ballot by four votes, then resigned the party leadership in August 1949.

Two years later, he was instrumental in launching Eisenhower's presidential candidacy.

"It took a lot of persuading to get him on the ticket," Mr. Scott reminisced years later. "Ike wasn't a political person - or he didn't think he was. . . . Finally, as I was leaving, I told him, 'Unless you tell me specifically not to, I'm going to start working for your candidacy.' He didn't tell me not to."

As chairman of the Eisenhower campaign committee, Mr. Scott got in a fight with the GOP's old guard, particularly Taft and Harold Stassen. He mustered the Young Republicans as fieldworkers in dozens of states and developed a groundswell of support, while Eisenhower stayed mostly aloof from the battle.

After Eisenhower's election, Mr. Scott remained one of his most loyal lieutenants, voting with the administration 97 percent of the time.

In 1958, Mr. Scott was elected to the Senate, beating Democratic Gov. George M. Leader by 113,000 votes.

In 1962, Mr. Scott threatened to run for governor when Republican leaders tried to nominate the lackluster Robert Woodside, whom he considered a certain loser. He stepped aside after securing the nomination for William W. Scranton.

"He was very anxious to have a centrist-progressive candidate, and he took the party on and did it in a very dramatic way," Specter said yesterday. "It was a very bold move, and he took a big risk in doing it."

Mr. Scott later pushed Scranton for the presidential nomination, serving as his floor manager at the 1964 Republican national convention, which chose Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater.

Perhaps Mr. Scott's most remarkable political triumph was his 1964 re- election, in which he overcame a 1.5 million-vote landslide for Lyndon B. Johnson in Pennsylvania to win by 70,000 votes. He achieved the victory by keeping a safe distance from Goldwater and his far-right politics. Earlier that year, President Johnson had singled out Mr. Scott as an outstanding Republican senator.

During his many years in the Senate, Mr. Scott's politics resisted labels. He sponsored progressive civil rights legislation while, at the same time, taking a hard line on Vietnam. On many issues, he darted from right to left to center. While still in the House, he championed anti-lynching laws and voting- rights bills as early as in 1949, years before Congress passed such legislation.

Mr. Scott emerged as a Senate power during his second term, winning an intraparty struggle for the post of minority whip in 1969. The position brought little influence at first, because Mr. Scott had defeated the hand- picked candidate of ailing Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, who punished him by leaving him virtually no responsibilities.

But Dirksen died in September 1969, and Mr. Scott won a hotly contested battle to succeed him as minority leader.

His loyalty to Nixon irritated liberal Republicans, who had expected Mr. Scott to be more independent. He defended Nixon's war policies, his cabinet appointments and, finally, his Watergate actions.

Even so, Nixon viewed Mr. Scott with suspicion. That stemmed from Mr. Scott's role as Nelson Rockefeller's floor manager at the 1968 Republican national convention. Nixon's top aides worked vigorously, if clumsily, to unseat Mr. Scott on three occasions.

"I probably stayed with (Nixon) too long," Mr. Scott later said. "But, as minority leader, I was supposed to be the President's voice in the Senate. So many times, day after day, he assured me that he could prove he'd done nothing wrong, and I'd leave the White House telling myself things weren't as bad as I knew they were."

Meanwhile, as the long investigation into Nixon's role in covering up the Watergate break-in continued, Mr. Scott acted as go-between for the White House and the Senate.

He reacted angrily when transcripts of Nixon's White House discussions of Watergate were made public, describing them as "shabby, disgusting and immoral." On Aug. 5, 1974, Mr. Scott personally informed Nixon that impeachment and conviction seemed imminent. Nixon resigned the next day.

Nor was Watergate the only time that Mr. Scott stood with Nixon longer than he later thought he should have. It was not until the bombing of Cambodia that he conferred with House Republican Leader Gerald R. Ford and decided that he could no longer support continuation of the Vietnam War.

"It took too long for a lot of us to realize what a mistake had been made there," Mr. Scott later said.

In 1975, with the memory of Watergate still fresh, a Gulf Oil Co. lobbyist named Claude Wild told investigators that he had given Mr. Scott about $100,000 in contributions between 1960 and 1973. He said the money had come

from a Gulf corporate "slush fund," which made the contributions illegal.

Mr. Scott never denied getting the money, but he went before the Senate in August 1976 to say he had not known that it had come from corporate funds. He also said that the amount Wild had given him had been closer to $45,000 than $100,000 and that other senators had received similar amounts.

In September 1976, the Senate Ethics Committee, with two members also alleged to have received corporate money from Gulf, voted, 5-1, not to recommend action against Mr. Scott. A grand jury wound up its investigation without an indictment. But politically, as well as personally, the Senate minority leader had been wounded.

Following his retirement in 1977, he became a lobbyist for the Pakistani and Japanese governments. He also served as a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, a privately funded conservative group that had a strong hand in shaping the Reagan administration's defense policies.

After leaving public service, Mr. Scott worked as an attorney with a firm in Washington. He retired in 1987 after suffering a stroke.

He wrote several books on politics and a volume on Chinese art, which he collected along with his trademark pipes.

Mr. Scott is survived by his only child, Marian Scott Concannon, of West Virginia, and eight grandchildren. His wife, Marian, died in June 1987.

A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday at Fort Myer. He will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mr. Scott requested that memorials be made to the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia or to Youth for Understanding in Washington.

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