Mel Watt: Wikis


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Mel Watt

Assumed office 
January 3, 1993
Preceded by None (District Re-established After 1990 Census)

Born August 26, 1945 (1945-08-26) (age 64)
Steele Creek, North Carolina
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Eulada Watt
Children Brian Watt
Jason Watt
Residence Charlotte, North Carolina
Alma mater University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Yale University
Occupation attorney
Religion Presbyterian

Melvin Luther (Mel) Watt (born August 26, 1945), American politician, has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1993, representing the North Carolina's 12th congressional district.

Born in Steele Creek, located in Mecklenburg County in North Carolina[1], Watt served a single term in the North Carolina Senate (1985–1986), before returning to his law practice and running private business. He was elected to the House in 1992 by defeating Barbara Gore Washington (R) and Curtis Wade Krumel (L). He serves on the Financial Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee. He previously served on the Joint Economic Committee. In the 109th Congress, he chaired the Congressional Black Caucus. He is a member of the NAACP.

One of the most liberal Southern Democrats, Watt was elected to his ninth consecutive term in the 2008 Congressional elections.


Early life

Watt is a native of Steele Creek, North Carolina and graduate of York Road High School in Charlotte. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1967[2] with a BS degree in Business Administration and was the president of the business honors fraternity as a result of having the highest academic average in the business school. In 1970, he received a JD degree from Yale University Law School[2] and was a published member of the Yale Law Journal. He has been awarded honorary degrees from North Carolina A&T State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Bennett College and Fisk University.[3]


Watt practiced law from 1970 to 1992, specializing in minority business and economic development law in a general practice law firm best known for its civil rights reputation. He has been a partner in several small businesses.[2]

Political career

Watt was the campaign manager of Harvey Gantt's campaigns for City Council, for Mayor of Charlotte and for the United States Senate. Watt served one term in the North Carolina Senate (1985-86) where he was called “the conscience of the Senate.” He did not seek a second term in the state Senate and announced that he would not consider running for elective office again until his children completed high school.[3]

In 1992, Watt was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina's newly created 12th Congressional District and became one of only two African American members elected to Congress from North Carolina in the 20th century.

Watt was unanimously elected and served as the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (2005-2006).

Since 1995, he has been the starting pitcher for the Democratic baseball team in the annual Congressional Baseball Game and was named most valuable player in 1995, 1996 and 2000.[3]

Committee assignments



Gerrymandered district

The 12th district, in its original configuration, was criticized as a gerrymandered district. It was originally drawn in 1992[4] as a 64% black majority district stretching from Gastonia to Durham. It was very long and thin as it followed Interstate 85 almost exactly.[5][6] The Wall Street Journal called the district "political pornography" and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor called the district's shape "bizarre" during the course of the eventual United States Supreme Court case involving the district, Shaw v. Reno. The district was thrown out as unconstitutional in 1996 and has been redrawn several times. Regardless of the district's configuration, Watt has had virtually no difficulty winning re-election in the always heavily Democratic district.

Ralph Nader incident

In 2004, Ralph Nader attended a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, where he alleges that Congressman Watt twice uttered an "obscene racial epithet" towards him. It was alleged that Watt said: "You're just another arrogant white man — telling us what we can do — it's all about your ego — another f--king arrogant white man." Although Nader wrote a letter to the Caucus and to Watt asking for an apology, none was offered.[7]

Opposition to Federal Reserve auditing and transparency

In 2009, fellow congressman Ron Paul reported to Bloomberg that while Paul's bill HR 1207, which mandates an audit of the Federal Reserve, was in subcommittee, Watt had substantially altered the substance of the bill, a move which had "gutted" the bill's protections.[8] According to Bloomberg News, on October 20, "The bill, with 308 co-sponsors, has been stripped of provisions that would remove Fed exemptions from audits of transactions with foreign central banks, monetary policy deliberations, transactions made under the direction of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and communications between the Board, the reserve banks and staff, Paul said today." Paul said there is "nothing left" in the bill after Watt's actions.[8]

Paul struck back against Watt when he and Alan Grayson of Florida passed a competing amendment hours before the bill cleared the House Financial Services Committee to restore the bill's original language and undo Watt's attempts to weaken its effects. Watt won support from Chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts and the Congressional Black Caucus, both of which backed his amendment. Eight of the ten Black Caucus members on the committee voted against the Paul-Grayson amendment. Watt and Frank voted in vain to inhibit the bill's approval. With pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus to delay consideration of the bill by the full House of Representatives, it is unclear when HR 1207 will face a final vote.[9]

Most of the top industries donating to Watt are major beneficiaries of Fed money printing. The country's largest bank Bank of America is headquartered in Charlotte in Watt's congressional district and has threatened to leave. The Sunlight Foundation reported that 45% of Watt's campaign contributions for 2009 are from corporations in the real estate, insurance and finance industries, the seventh-highest percentage of any member of Congress.[10][11] Watt’s largest contributors included American Express (NYSE: AXP), Wachovia, Bank of America and the American Bankers Association.

Political positions

Opposition to increased oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

In 2003 Watt vehemently opposed efforts by the George W. Bush administration and Congressional Republicans to increase regulatory oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.[12] "I don't see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing", Mr. Watt said.[12] Watt said that "Brad Miller and I were at the forefront of that more than anybody else in America" in trying to prevent the financial crisis, despite the fact that Watt's stated position was against an increase and more oversight for high risk lending.[13]


External links

United States House of Representatives
New district Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 12th congressional district

1993 – present
Preceded by
Elijah Cummings
Chairman of Congressional Black Caucus
Succeeded by
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick


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