A FilAm in the US Congress

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — Fifteen years ago, on November 1992, Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott was elected to the US House of Representatives.  By winning in that election, Rep. Scott made history by becoming the first African American elected to Congress from Virginia for over 100 years, next only to  John Mercer Langston who is the Father of Black Politics by virtue of being the first African American ever elected to office in America.

There is a little known fact about Rep. Bobby Scott – his lolo (grandfather) on his mother’s side is Pinoy. This also gives the Congressman from Virginia the distinction of being the first American with Filipino heritage to serve in the United States Congress.

Overcoming the odds, being a trendsetter and making history are traits that Congressman Scott inherited from his Filipino grandfather, Valentin Cortez. As a boy in the Philippines, Valentin wanted to escape the hardships in his hometown and seek greener pastures  whatever the cost.

Eventually, he stowed away in a ship bound for the United States. The ship’s Captain Hamlin, an American, discovered the young lad and decided to adopt him.

Valentin went home with his adoptive father to North Carolina where he grew up and got a good education. Taking the name of the captain, he became known as Valentin Cortez Hamlin. Valentin became a pharmacist and married an African American. His daughter, Mae Hamlin Scott, is the Congressman’s mother.

Born on April 30, 1947 in Washington, DC, Congressman Scott grew up in Newport News, Virginia.  He is a graduate of Harvard University and Boston College Law School.  After graduating from law school, he returned to Newport News and practiced law from 1973 to 1991.  He also served in the Massachusetts National Guard and the United States Army Reserve.

While practicing law in Newport News, Scott served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1978 to 1983 and in the Senate of Virginia from 1983 to 1993.

During his tenure in the Virginia General Assembly, Rep. Scott successfully sponsored laws that are critical to Virginians in healthcare, education, employment, economic development, crime prevention, social services and consumer protection.  His legislative successes included laws that improved healthcare benefits for infants and children, increased the Virginia minimum wage and created the Governor’s Employment and Training Council.

His outstanding performance in Virginia was not unnoticed by the State, which has been electing Scott to serve in the US House of Representatives for eight consecutive terms now.

Rep. Scott currently serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, and is a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor and the House Committee on Budget.

In his 15 years in Congress, Rep. Scott has become known as a champion of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, fighting to protect the rights and civil liberties of all Americans.  In 1997, Rep. Scott fought to protect the rights of all children with disabilities to obtain a free and appropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Rep. Scott is currently a leading opponent of efforts to permit employment discrimination based on race or religion in federally funded programs. He is a leading advocate for improving and increasing funding for veterans’ benefits and health care; for the enactment of legislation to reduce high school dropout rates and increase access to a college education for all students with the Every Student Counts Act.  Scott is also a strong supporter of universal health care and has sponsored the All Healthy Children Act that would ensure that the 9 million uninsured children in the United States have access to quality health care.


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