By William Hicks


Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., receives Trailblazer award from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. (William Hicks/MNS)

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., receives Trailblazer award from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. (William Hicks/MNS)

WASHINGTON – It was a celebration of firsts Wednesday for African American Republican lawmakers at the Howard Theatre, an historic venue for black entertainment. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, and Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, received awards for paving the way for African Americans in the Republican Party.

Sen. Edward Brooke III, R-Mass., who died last month, was awarded posthumously.

Hosts Roland Marin and Tara Setmayer, two cable news commentators, kept the mood light with jokes and occasional African-American history factoids.

“Thanks to the honorees today, the black community now has more representation among Republicans in Congress,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC. “That is an important milestone.”

The lawmakers were honored for being first in various ways by virtue of being elected to Congress.

Brooke was the first black U.S. senator elected since Reconstruction, while Scott is the first black senator elected from the South since Reconstruction. Love is the first black Republican woman ever to serve in Congress and Hurd is the first black Republican elected to Congress from Texas.

“It’s startling we have to have all these firsts,” said Woody Johnson, owner of the NFL New York Jets, who spoke at the event. “Now let’s get to the second and thirds pretty fast.”

During their acceptance speeches, Scott, Love and Hurd stressed the importance of the GOP getting its message out to black voters. The 114th Congress marks the largest number of African-American Republican members serving since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. All three of them were at the event.

Love discussed the adversity she felt as a black Republican woman who did not fit the preconceived notions of some skeptics.

“I am all of those things because I refuse to fit this mold that society tells me I need to fit into,” Love said.

Each award recipient was careful to thank those who gave them the opportunities to succeed, from family members to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I feel as though I have only trail blazed three inches,” Scott said, “while those who came before me trail blazed miles.”