South Carolina state Sen. John Scott, longtime Democratic lawmaker, dies at 69

FILE - South Carolina State Sen. John Scott speaks during a prayer vigil in remembrance of Cyrus Carmack-Belton, Friday, June 2, 2023, in Columbia, S.C. Scott, a longtime South Carolina state lawmaker who served in state government for more than three decades, died Sunday, Aug. 13, after a stint in the hospital, according to Democrats across the state. (AP Photo/Erik Verduzco, File)
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By MEG KINNARD Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — State Sen. John Scott, a longtime South Carolina lawmaker who served in state government for more than three decades, died Sunday after a stint in the hospital, according to Democrats across the state. He was 69.

Scott had been at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston since Friday when he was hospitalized for an undisclosed medical issue, according to Senate officials.

In a statement released by Senate President Thomas Alexander, Scott’s family said he “passed away peaceably while surrounded by family and close friends.”

Scott, a Columbia Democrat, operated a realty company and had been in the Legislature for more than 30 years, serving most recently on the Senate’s judiciary, medical affairs and penology committees. First elected to the state House in 1990, he won election to the Senate in 2008 and would have been up for reelection next year. He ran unopposed in the 2020 general election.

Marguerite Willis, who selected Scott as her running mate when she unsuccessfully sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018, told The Associated Press on Sunday that she was with Scott’s family in Charleston when he died. Recalling their history-making campaign — South Carolina’s first-ever ticket composed of a white woman and Black man — Willis said she and Scott reflected recently on their campaign.

“John and I were just talking about this a month ago,” Willis said. “We were proud of that, and what it said about harmony and diversity and the importance of having both sexes and two races together. It broadened our vision and our experience and thus our impact.”

Willis, who said she hadn’t known Scott until they became running mates, said their political affiliation quickly evolved in a close friendship.

“He was a superb supporter of women and women’s issues,” she said. “It was sort of an arranged marriage in a weird way: people put us together, and over the last five years, we became brother and sister. He was my friend and my family.”

A special election will be held to fill Scott’s seat. According to statute, after the Senate’s presiding officer calls for the election, filing opens on the third Friday after the vacancy, with the election to be held roughly three months later. Gov. Henry McMaster said in statement that Scott “will be deeply missed,” and the governor’s office said he would order flags lowered across the state once funeral arrangements were announced.

Scott’s impact reverberated Sunday throughout South Carolina’s Democratic circles. Christale Spain, elected earlier this year as chair of South Carolina’s Democratic Party and one of Scott’s constituents, remembered him as someone who “used his voice in the General Assembly to fight not only for his district but for all South Carolinians and his life’s work on issues of education, healthcare and economic development will have a lasting impact on our state.”

Senate Democratic Leader Brad Hutto remembered Scott’s “tireless work ethic, his willingness to bridge divides, and his unyielding commitment to the principles of justice and equality.”

“A giant tree has fallen,” former Democratic state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, who served alongside Scott before leaving the chamber earlier this year, said Sunday. Calling him the “financial pit bull of the Senate,” Kimpson said his former colleague “reminded us constantly or our fiscal responsibility to those South Carolinians in need.”