Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: Dec. 2001, 6th full term.

Born: July 31, 1947, Charleston, SC

Home: Springdale, SC

Education: Washington & Lee U., B.A. 1969, U. of S.C., J.D. 1972

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1972-2001.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Presbyterian

Family: Married (Roxanne Dusenbury McCrory) , 4 children; 7 grandchildren

Republican Joe Wilson, who won his seat in a December 2001 special election, has a reputation as a staunch fiscal and defense hawk. But mostly he is known as the lawmaker who breached congressional decorum in a spectacular way in 2009 by shouting, “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s health care address to a joint meeting of Congress.

Wilson grew up in Charleston and graduated from Washington & Lee University and the University of South Carolina law school. He worked as an aide to 2nd District GOP Rep. Floyd Spence and then for Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond. Wilson was deputy general counsel at the Energy Department during the Reagan administration. He practiced law in West Columbia for 25 years while working on several political campaigns. In 1984, he was elected to the state Senate, where he chaired the Transportation Committee. During this period, he served 31 years as a staff judge advocate in the South Carolina Army National Guard, retiring in 2003. (All four of Wilson’s sons have been Eagle Scouts and served in the military, two of them in Iraq. His son, Alan, was elected state attorney general in 2010.)

In 2001, when Spence died after more than 30 years in the House, Wilson became the front-runner to replace his longtime friend and mentor. In his campaign, he pledged to continue Spence’s focus on national defense. He won the Republican primary with 76% of the vote and defeated his Democratic opponent easily, 73%-25%.

In the House, Wilson’s willingness to counsel South Carolina’s freshman House members in the 112th Congress (2011-12) led them to dub him “the Scoutmaster.” With a seat on the Armed Services Committee, he has concentrated, as promised, on military issues. In January 2011, he became chairman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee of Armed Services. In the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill, he succeeded in keeping alive some of the Air Force’s Global Hawk unmanned surveillance planes after the Pentagon had sought to retire the planes, saying the older, piloted U-2 plane did the same job.

At a January 2013 hearing, Wilson rebuked outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not going on Sunday talk shows to discuss the earlier terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, saying one of her priorities should have been “telling correct information” to the public. He also criticized Obama for “holding our military hostage” with across-the-board defense cuts that took effect in March of that year when a comprehensive spending deal between the president and congressional Republicans couldn’t be reached. Wilson has advocated a closer military relationship with India, and he supported President George W. Bush on the Iraq war, traveling frequently to Iraq and Afghanistan to gauge progress.

Wilson was unknown outside of his district, and barely known in Washington, before his outburst during Obama’s September 2009 speech to House members and senators gathered for a joint session of Congress. As Obama was answering what he called critics’ “bogus claims” of his health care legislation, Wilson called out, “You lie!” His behavior was the subject of stinging commentary on editorial pages and talk shows around the country. He apologized to Obama in a phone call but rebuffed Democratic demands for a more public apology from the well of the House. His South Carolina colleague, then-Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn, alleged there was a taint of racism in Wilson’s reaction, noting that no other president in memory had been the target of a similar breach in protocol during a joint session. Democrats pushed for a floor vote to sanction Wilson, and the House passed a “resolution of disapproval” on a mostly party-line vote.

Wilson also took some heat at home in 2010 after he refused to sign a letter requesting an appropriations earmark for a $400,000 study of dredging in the Port of Charleston, a project aimed at making the port capable of accommodating larger ships that will be coming through an enlarged Panama Canal after 2014. The letter was submitted to the Appropriations committees from the South Carolina congressional delegation, but Wilson and Sen. Jim DeMint declined to sign based on their objections to the practice of earmarking. Because of the dissension in the delegation, the earmark for the study was refused, enraging civic and business leaders who saw the project as vital to the state’s future economic growth. The Obama administration decided to pursue the study the following year, and Wilson praised the move.

On other issues with strong local interest, Wilson joined most other South Carolina Republicans in opposing trade promotion authority for presidents. He did vote for the Central America Free Trade Agreement in 2005, as well as for pacts with Colombia and Panama in 2011, but he refused to support a deal that year with South Korea, which competes against his state’s textile industry. In March 2010, he criticized the Obama administration’s decision to withhold funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository in Nevada, saying the Savannah River Site would be stuck indefinitely holding 7,200 containers of spent nuclear waste. He introduced a bill to try to reverse the decision, but it failed to advance.

On the Education and the Workforce Committee, Wilson in 2003 won House passage of a bill to expand college loan forgiveness for math, science, and special education teachers who work in impoverished areas. He also worked with Democrats to make permanent the child adoption tax credit. But Wilson failed in his quest to get the top Republican slot on the committee when it came open in 2009. Wilson had more seniority than his competitors but lost out to John Kline of Minnesota.

Over the years, Wilson has been reelected by wide margins. For 2012, South Carolina redistricting officials gave Wilson a district that includes all of Lexington and Aiken counties, some of the strongest tea party bastions in the state. After easily dispatching a GOP primary challenger, he ran unopposed in the general election.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(803) 939-0041

(803) 939-0078

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2229
Washington, DC 20515-4002

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2452

(202) 225-2455

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2229
Washington, DC 20515-4002

DISTRICT OFFICE

(803) 939-0041

(803) 939-0078

1700 Sunset Boulevard (US 378) Suite 1
West Columbia, SC 29169-5940

DISTRICT OFFICE

(803) 939-0041

(803) 939-0078

1700 Sunset Boulevard (US 378) Suite One
West Columbia, SC 29169-5940

DISTRICT OFFICE

(803) 939-0041

(803) 939-0078

1930 University Parkway Suite 1600
Aiken, SC 29801

DISTRICT OFFICE

(803) 642-6416

(803) 642-6418

1930 University Parkway Suite 1600
Aiken, SC 29802

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 2145
West Columbia, SC 29171-2145

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(803) 939-0041

(803) 939-0078

PO Box 2145
West Columbia, SC 29171-2145

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Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Emily Saleeby
Executive Assistant; Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

Appropriations

Matt Blackwell
Legislative Assistant

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Matt Blackwell
Legislative Assistant

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Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

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Candace Rich
Legislative Assistant

Emily Saleeby
Executive Assistant; Legislative Assistant

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Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

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Candace Rich
Legislative Assistant

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Matt Blackwell
Legislative Assistant

Environment

Matt Blackwell
Legislative Assistant

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Legislative Assistant

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Matt Blackwell
Legislative Assistant

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Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

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Candace Rich
Legislative Assistant

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Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

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Candace Rich
Legislative Assistant

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Candace Rich
Legislative Assistant

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Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

Judiciary

Candace Rich
Legislative Assistant

Labor

Candace Rich
Legislative Assistant

Medicare

Candace Rich
Legislative Assistant

Military

Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

Privacy

Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

Recreation

Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

Religion

Emily Saleeby
Executive Assistant; Legislative Assistant

Small Business

Matt Blackwell
Legislative Assistant

Tax

Matt Blackwell
Legislative Assistant

Technology

Candace Rich
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Emily Saleeby
Executive Assistant; Legislative Assistant

Trade

Matt Blackwell
Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

Veterans

Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

Welfare

Taylor Andreae
Legislative Director

Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Joe Wilson
Votes: 121,379
Percent: 62.58%
Phil Black
Votes: 68,438
Percent: 35.28%
2012 GENERAL
Joe Wilson
Unopposed
2012 PRIMARY
Joe Wilson
Votes: 23,062
Percent: 80.58%
Phil Black
Votes: 5,557
Percent: 19.42%
2010 GENERAL
Joe Wilson
Votes: 138,861
Percent: 53.48%
Rob Miller
Votes: 113,625
Percent: 43.76%
2010 PRIMARY
Joe Wilson
Votes: 64,973
Percent: 83.41%
Phil Black
Votes: 12,923
Percent: 16.59%
2008 GENERAL
Joe Wilson
Votes: 184,583
Percent: 53.74%
Rob Miller
Votes: 158,627
Percent: 46.18%
2008 PRIMARY
Joe Wilson
Votes: 44,783
Percent: 85.12%
Phil Black
Votes: 7,831
Percent: 14.88%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (53%), 2008 (54%), 2006 (63%), 2004 (65%), 2002 (84%), 2001 special (73%)

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