During his lengthy Congressional career, first in the U.S. House of Representatives and later in the U.S. Senate, Hugh Scott served as Senate Republican leader and exhibited skills as a legislative tactician, often rising above partisan concerns for the national interest.
This portrait depicts Senator Scott comfortably seated and surrounded by objects that represent his varied interests and achievements. An ardent pipe smoker, he holds one of the 500 pipes he collected. The book resting on the senator's knee likely alludes to the many publications he authored, including "The Golden Age of Chinese Art." A sculpture of a Chinese Tang dynasty horse in the portrait's background refers to Scott's lifelong interests in Chinese art and culture, which proved useful when the U.S. reestablished relations with China in 1972. Scott was part of the first official Senate delegation to the People’s Republic of China in 1972.
Following Senator Scott’s retirement in 1977 with 34 years of service in Congress, the Senate designated room S-120 in the U.S. Capitol as the Hugh Scott Room. The portrait of Scott by artist Chris Owen was completed shortly before the room’s dedication on September 15, 1981.
Chstine “Chris” L. Owen earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Kansas in the early 1940s and taught painting in Florida. She accepted commissions to paint portraits of university trustees and presidents, as well as figures in business and government. She executed the official portrait of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White, now in the collection of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Owen later completed a second portrait of Hugh Scott which resides at the senator’s alma mater, Randolph Macon College in Virginia.
On September 24, 1969, in a closed-door caucus, Senate Republicans narrowly elected Senator Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania over Senator Howard Baker, Jr., of Tennessee to be the new Republican minority leader. Scott had served as the Republican whip for less than a year when the death of Illinois senator Everett Dirksen left the party's leadership position vacant. Elected to the Senate in 1958, Scott served three terms before retiring in 1977. He served as Republican leader for eight years. According to William F. Hildenbrand, Scott's long-time assistant in the Senate, the senator "was a consummate politician." In 1981 a room in the Capitol was designated as the “Hugh Scott Room,” and in 1989, when Senate leaders were establishing a special 15-member Study Group on the Commemoration of the Senate Bicentenary, Scott was selected to chair this panel.