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Trent Lott

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Trent Lott

Trent Lott
United States Senator
from Mississippi
In office
January 3, 1989 – December 18, 2007
Preceded by John Stennis
Succeeded by Roger Wicker
Senate Majority Leader
In office
January 20, 2001 – June 6, 2001
Deputy Don Nickles
Preceded by Tom Daschle
Succeeded by Tom Daschle
In office
June 12, 1996 – January 3, 2001
Deputy Don Nickles
Preceded by Bob Dole
Succeeded by Tom Daschle
Senate Minority Leader
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 20, 2001
Deputy Don Nickles
Preceded by Tom Daschle
Succeeded by Tom Daschle
In office
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
Deputy Don Nickles
Preceded by Tom Daschle
Succeeded by Tom Daschle
Senate Minority Whip
In office
January 3, 2007 – December 18, 2007
Leader Mitch McConnell
Preceded by Dick Durbin
Succeeded by Jon Kyl
Senate Majority Whip
In office
January 3, 1995 – June 12, 1996
Leader Bob Dole
Preceded by Wendell Ford
Succeeded by Don Nickles
House Minority Whip
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1989
Leader Robert H. Michel
Preceded by Robert H. Michel
Succeeded by Dick Cheney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1989
Preceded by William M. Colmer
Succeeded by Larkin I. Smith
Personal details
Born Chester Trent Lott
(1941-10-09) October 9, 1941
Grenada, Mississippi, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Republican (since 1972)
Democratic (before 1972)
Spouse(s) Patricia Thompson Lott
Children Chester Trent Lott, Jr.
Tyler Lott
Residence Pascagoula, Mississippi
Alma mater University of Mississippi
University of Mississippi School of Law
Religion Southern Baptist

Chester Trent Lott, Sr. (born October 9, 1941) is an American politician. A former United States Senator from Mississippi, Lott served in numerous leadership positions in both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. He entered Congress as one of the first of a wave of Republicans winning seats in Southern states that had been solidly Democratic. He became Senate Majority Leader, then fell from power after praising Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist Dixiecrat presidential bid.

From 1968 to 1972, Lott was an administrative assistant to Representative William M. Colmer of Mississippi, who was also the chairman of the House Rules Committee. Upon Colmer's retirement, Lott won Colmer's former seat in the House of Representatives. In 1988, Lott ran successfully for the U.S. Senate to replace another retiree, John Stennis. After Republicans took the majority in the Senate, Lott became Senate Majority Whip in 1995 and then Senate Majority Leader in 1996, upon the resignation of presidential nominee Bob Dole of Kansas.

On December 20, 2002, after significant controversy following comments regarding Strom Thurmond's presidential candidacy, Lott resigned as Senate Minority Leader. He resigned from the Senate in 2007 and fellow Republican Roger Wicker won the 2008 special election to replace him.

Lott became a lobbyist, co-founding the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group.[1] The firm was later acquired by law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs.[2] Lott serves as a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), where he focuses on issues related to energy, national security, transportation and congressional reforms.[3] Lott is also a co-chair of BPC's Energy Project.


  • Early life 1
  • Political career 2
    • House of Representatives 2.1
    • United States Senate 2.2
      • Resignation from Senate leadership 2.2.1
      • 2006 re-election campaign 2.2.2
      • Resignation 2.2.3
  • Current work 3
    • Richard Scruggs controversy 3.1
  • Author 4
  • Further reading 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Lott was born in Grenada, Mississippi, and lived his early years in nearby Duck Hill, where his father, Chester Paul Lott, sharecropped a stretch of cotton field. Lott's mother, the former Iona Watson, was a schoolteacher. When Lott was in the sixth grade, the family moved to Pascagoula, where Lott's father worked at a shipyard.[4] Lott attended college at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where he obtained an undergraduate degree in public administration in 1963 and a law degree in 1967. He served as a field representative for Ole Miss and was president of his fraternity, Sigma Nu. Lott was also an Ole Miss cheerleader, on the same team with future U.S. Senator Thad Cochran.[5] Regarding his education, the Congressional Record from 1999 quotes Senator Lott declaring: "I am a product of public education from the first grade through the second, third, and fourth grades where I went to school at Duck Hill, Mississippi, and I had better teachers in the second, third, and fourth grades in Duck Hill, Mississippi, than I had the rest of my life."[6] Lott married Patricia Thompson on December 27, 1964. The couple has two children: Chester Trent "Chet" Lott, Jr., and Tyler Lott.

While an undergraduate at the University of Mississippi, Lott participated in the effort at the 1964 national convention of the Sigma Nu fraternity to oppose a civil rights amendment proposed by the Dartmouth College and Duke University chapters to end mandatory racial exclusion by the fraternity. Lott sided with the segregationists who defeated the amendment. The Dartmouth chapter subsequently seceded from the fraternity, and Sigma Nu remained whites-only until later in the decade.[7][8]

Political career

House of Representatives

He served as administrative assistant to House Rules Committee chairman William M. Colmer, also of Pascagoula, from 1968 to 1972.

In 1972, Colmer, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, announced his retirement after 40 years in Congress. He endorsed Lott as his successor in Mississippi's 5th District, located in the state's southwestern tip, even though Lott ran as a Republican. Lott won handily, in large part due to Richard Nixon's landslide victory in that year's presidential election. Nixon won the 5th district with an astonishing 87 percent of the vote; it was his strongest congressional district in the entire nation.[9]

Lott and his future Senate colleague, Thad Cochran (also elected to Congress that year), were only the second and third Republicans elected to Congress from Mississippi since Reconstruction (Prentiss Walker was the first in 1964). Lott's strong showing in the polls landed him on the powerful House Judiciary Committee as a freshman, where he voted against all three articles of impeachment drawn up against Nixon during the committee's debate. After Nixon released the infamous "smoking gun" transcripts (which proved Nixon's involvement in the Watergate cover-up), however, Lott announced that he would vote to impeach Nixon when the articles came up for debate before the full House (as did the other Republicans who voted against impeachment in committee).

Sen. Trent Lott with Former George W. Bush.

Lott became very popular in his district, even though almost none of its living residents had been represented by a Republican before. As evidence, in November 1974, Lott won a second term in a blowout. Cochran was also reelected in a rout; he and Lott were the first Republicans to win a second term in Congress from the state since Reconstruction. They were among the few bright spots in a year that saw many Republicans turned out of office due to anger over Watergate. Lott was re-elected six more times without much difficulty, and even ran unopposed in 1978. In 1980, he served as Ronald Reagan's Mississippi state chairman.[10] He served as House Minority Whip (the second-ranking Republican in the House) from 1981 to 1989; he was the first Southern Republican to hold such a high leadership position.

United States Senate

Lott ran for the Senate in 1988, after 42-year incumbent Hurricane Katrina, he announced on January 17, 2006 that he would run for a fourth term.

He became Senate Majority Whip when the Republicans took control of the Senate in 1995. In June 1996, he ran for the post of Senate Majority Leader to succeed Republican Bob Dole, who had resigned from the Senate to concentrate on his presidential campaign. Lott faced his Mississippi colleague Thad Cochran, the then-Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. Cochran cast himself as an "institutionalist" and who would held to rebuild public trust in Congress through compromise over conflict. Lott promised a "more aggressive" style of leadership and courted the younger Senate conservatives. Lott won by 44 votes to 8.[11] As majority leader, Lott had a major role in the Senate trial following the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. After the House narrowly voted to impeach Clinton, Lott proceeded with the Senate trial in early 1999, despite criticisms that Republicans were far short of the two-thirds majority required under the Constitution to convict Clinton and remove him from office. He later agreed to a decision to suspend the proceedings after the Senate voted not to convict Clinton.

Lott generally pursued a conservative position in politics and was a noted social conservative. For instance, in 1998, Lott caused some controversy in Congress when as a guest on the Armstrong Williams television show, he equated homosexuality with alcoholism, kleptomania and sex addiction. When Williams, a conservative talk show host, asked Lott whether homosexuality is a sin, Lott simply replied, "Yes, it is."[12] Lott's stance against homosexuality was disconcerting to liberal Democratic Party elected officials and the Human Rights Campaign Fund, an advocacy group for gay rights.[13]

After the Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote gave the Republicans the majority once again. Later in 2001, he became Senate Minority Leader again after Vermont senator Jim Jeffords became an independent and caucused with the Democrats, allowing them to regain the majority. He was due to become majority leader again in early 2003 after Republican gains in the November 2002 elections.

Resignation from Senate leadership

Trent Lott spoke on December 5, 2002 at the 100th birthday party of Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, a long time conservative leader. Thurmond had run for President of the United States in 1948 on the Dixiecrat (or States' Rights) ticket. Lott said: "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either."[14]

Thurmond had based his presidential campaign largely on an explicit States' Rights platform that challenged the Civil Rights Movement and later, the Civil Rights Act as illegally overturning the Separation of powers under the United States Constitution and called for the preservation of racial segregation. The Washington Post reported that Lott had made similar comments about Thurmond's candidacy in a 1980 rally.[15] Lott gave an interview with Black Entertainment Television explaining himself and repudiating Thurmond's former views.[16]

In the wake of controversy, Lott resigned as Senate Republican Leader on December 20, 2002, effective at the start of the next session, January 3, 2003. Bill Frist of Tennessee was later elected to the leadership position. In the book Free Culture, Lawrence Lessig argues that Lott's resignation would not have occurred had it not been for the effect of Internet blogs. He says that though the story "disappear[ed] from the mainstream press within forty-eight hours", "bloggers kept researching the story" until, "finally, the story broke back into the mainstream press."[17]

Lott's official Senate portrait

After losing the Majority Leader post, Lott was less visible on the national scene, although he did break with some standard conservative positions. He battled with Bush over military base closures in his home state. He showed support for passenger rail initiatives, notably his 2006 bipartisan introduction, with Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, of legislation to provide 80 percent federal matching grants to intercity rail and guarantee adequate funding for Amtrak.[18] On July 18, 2006, Lott voted with 19 Republican senators for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act to lift restrictions on federal funding for the research. On November 15, 2006 Lott regained a leadership position in the Senate, when he was named Minority Whip after defeating Lamar Alexander of Tennessee 24–23.[19]

Senator John E. Sununu (R) of New Hampshire said, after Lott's election as Senate Minority Whip, "He understands the rules. He's a strong negotiator." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) said he's "the smartest legislative politician I've ever met."[20]

2006 re-election campaign

Lott faced no Republican opposition in the race. State representative Erik R. Fleming placed first of four candidates in the June Democratic primary, but did not receive the 50 percent of the vote required to earn the party's nomination. Fleming and second-place finisher Bill Bowlin faced off in a runoff on June 27, and Fleming won with 65% of the vote. Fleming, however, was not regarded as a serious opponent, and Lott handily defeated him with 64% of the vote.


On November 26, 2007, Lott announced that he would resign his Senate seat by the end of 2007.[21] According to CNN, his resignation was at least partly due to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which forbade lawmakers from lobbying for two years after leaving office. Those who left by the end of 2007 were covered by the previous law, which demanded a wait of only one year.[22] In an interview regarding his resignation, Lott said that the new law "didn't have a big role" in his decision to resign.[23]

Lott's resignation became effective at 11:30 p.m. on December 18, 2007.[24] On January 7, 2008, it was announced that Lott and former Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, a Democrat, opened their lobbying firm about a block from the White House.[25]

Current work

In December 2007, he co-founded the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group, a "strategic advice, consulting, and lobbying" firm.[1][26][27] The firm was later acquired by law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs.[2] In September 2014, lobbyist filings revealed that Lott was contracted to advocate on behalf of Gazprombank, a Russian majority state-owned bank targeted with sanctions over the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine.[28] Lott also serves on the board of directors of Airbus Group North America.[26]

On October 10, 2008, Lott was named Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society, Trinity College, Dublin.

Lott is a 3rd Degree Freemason and holds the Grand Cross in The Southern Masonic Jurisdiction.[29]

Lott is on the Board of Selectors of Jefferson Awards for Public Service.[30]

Richard Scruggs controversy

On November 29, 2007, The New York Times noted that Lott's brother-in-law, Richard Scruggs, was indicted on charges of offering a $40,000 bribe to a Mississippi state judge in a fee dispute. Scruggs represented Lott and then Representative Gene Taylor in settlements with State Farm Insurance company after the insurer refused to pay claims for the loss of their Mississippi homes in Hurricane Katrina. Lott and Taylor had pushed through federal legislation to investigate claims handling of State Farm and other insurers after Hurricane Katrina, a potential conflict of interest.[31][32] On July 30, 2008, the Associated Press reported that during a deposition related to the Hurricane Katrina claims, Zach Scruggs, son of Richard Scruggs, was asked by State Farm Fire & Casualty Cos. attorney Jim Robie, "Has it been your custom and habit in prosecuting litigation to have Senator Lott contact and encourage witnesses to give false information?" Zach Scruggs responded, "I invoke my Fifth Amendment rights in response to that question." [33] On February 14, 2009, The New York Times noted in relation to an indictment of Judge Bobby DeLaughter for taking bribes from Scruggs that federal prosecutors have said that Lott was induced by Scruggs to offer DeLaughter a federal judgeship in order to gain the judge's favor.[34] The Richard Scruggs controversy was the subject of the 2009 book Kings of Tort in 2009 by Alan Lange,[35] and the 2010 book The Fall of the House of Zeus: The Rise and Ruin of America's Most Powerful Trial Lawyer.


Lott's memoir, entitled Colin Powell, and other GOP leaders played a major role in ending his career as Senate Republican Leader.[38]

Further reading

  • Lott, Trent. Herding Cats: A Life in Politics (Regan Books: 2005). ISBN 0-06-059931-6.
  • Orey, Byron D'Andra. "Racial Threat, Republicanism, and the Rebel Flag: Trent Lott and the 2006 Mississippi Senate Race", National Political Science Review July 2009, Vol. 12, pp. 83–96.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ The Bipartisan Policy Center Welcomes Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Barone, Michael; et al. The Almanac of American Politics (1976), p. 465.
  10. ^ Kornacki, Steve (2011-02-03) The "Southern Strategy", fulfilled,
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Controversy Over Lott's Views of Homosexuals June 17, 1998, from The New York Times
  14. ^
  15. ^ Raghavan, Sudarsan; Miller, Greg (December 10, 2002). The Washington Post.
  16. ^ Transcript of Lott interview on BET, December 13, 2002
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Trent Lott announces his resignation
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b
  27. ^ Breaux Lott Leadership Group
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ Lott, Herding Cats: A Life in Politics (2005), p. 273.
  37. ^ Lott, Herding Cats: A Life In Politics (2005), p. 211.
  38. ^ Lott, Herding Cats: A Life In Politics (2005), pp. 271–272.

External links

  • Lott Decried for Part of Salute to Thurmond, The Washington Post, Saturday, December 7, 2002; p. A06.
  • Sen. Lott Fights to Save Post as Leader, The Washington Post, Saturday, December 14, 2002; p. A01
  • Lott Remarks on Thurmond Echoed 1980 Words, The Washington Post, Wednesday, December 11, 2002; p. A06
  • Sen. Lott's New Spin The Washington Post, Saturday, December 14, 2002; p. A24
  • Talking Points Memo, a political weblog, has posted Lott's racially-inflected Fall 1984 interview with the Southern Partisan and discusses his long-standing association with a paleoconservative group, the Council of Conservative Citizens
  • Rock Steady Candid commentary about his career in Interview with Perry Hicks for
  • Joe Conason's Journal: Lott's involvement with the neo-Confederate movement, racists and extreme rightists goes way back,, December 12, 2002.
  • Bloggers Catch What Washington Post Missed, The Guardian (UK), Saturday, December 21, 2002.
  • Katrina Weighs on Lott’s Decision-Making, Roll Call, September 15, 2005 (subscription required).
  • Lott to run again for Senate, CNN, Wednesday, January 18, 2006.
  • Harper's Magazine article – A Minor Injustice: Why Paul Minor?
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William M. Colmer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Larkin I. Smith
United States Senate
Preceded by
John C. Stennis
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Mississippi
Served alongside: Thad Cochran
Succeeded by
Roger Wicker
Political offices
Preceded by
Christopher Dodd
Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee
Succeeded by
Dianne Feinstein
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert H. Michel
House Republican Whip
Succeeded by
Dick Cheney
Preceded by
Bob Kasten
Vice-Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference
Succeeded by
Connie Mack III
Preceded by
Alan K. Simpson
Senate Republican Whip
Succeeded by
Don Nickles
Preceded by
Bob Dole
Senate Republican Leader
June 12, 1996 – January 3, 2003
Succeeded by
Bill Frist
Preceded by
Mitch McConnell
Senate Republican Whip
January 4, 2007 – December 18, 2007
Succeeded by
Jon Kyl
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