By David Murray
Walter Blessey admitted that he “clicked immediately” with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) when he first met him eight months ago—although, he added jokingly, “I’m not sure whether he clicked with me.”
Scott’s life story resonated strongly with Blessey, who has been involved for several decades with the Junior Achievement organization that promotes leadership and entrepreneurship among young people.
Both men spoke at the June 27 christening on the New Orleans riverfront of the mv. Tim Scott, the newest addition to the growing Blessey fleet. Blessey also received a special gift, presented by Junior Achievement awardee Lindsay St. Pierre—a portrait of Blessey identical to one that stands in the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame.
In thanking St. Pierre for the award, Blessey said, “I am humbled,” and noted that he helped raise $35,000 for the organization during his first fund-raiser 15 years ago, an amount that has grown to $187,000 this past year.
When Blessey’s remarks were briefly interrupted by a nearby towboat horn, he joked, “That’s OK—sounds like money to me!”
Turned Life Around
Scott was introduced to the crowd of more than 100 attendees by Clark Todd, Blessey’s president and chief operating officer.
Scott grew up poor in Charleston, S.C., and was raised with five siblings by a single mother who worked 16-hour days as a nursing assistant. Scott said he was “on a bad road” in his youth, flunking almost every course in his freshman year of high school, including French, Spanish, geography, and even civics.
Scott drew a laugh when he said, “I thought I was the only senator ever to fail civics, until I arrived in the Senate and began to suspect that a number of my colleagues had also flunked civics—or at least cheated to pass it.”
Scott’s life turned around, he said, when an interest was taken in him by a local entrepreneur, Tim Muniz, who was a Chick-Fil-A franchisee. “He was my Walter Blessey,” said Scott.
With Muniz as his mentor, Scott returned to school, attended Presbyterian College on a football scholarship, and graduated from Charleston Southern University with a B.S. in political science. He worked for an insurance company, then started his own, which he still owns.
Scott was first elected to public office when he ran for the Charleston County Council in 1995, becoming the first black Republican elected to any office in South Carolina since the 19th century. He was then elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2008, beating his fellow County Councilman Paul Thurmond, son of Sen. Strom Thurmond.
In 2012, Scott was appointed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the Senate seat of Jim DeMint, who had resigned to head the Heritage Foundation. Scott said his goal in Congress was to “improve the free-market environment that creates more Walter Blesseys.”
The mv. Tim Scott is the 9th Blessey boat in the fleet of 75 to be named after politicians. They are mostly named after Republicans, but do include two named after Democrats, the mvs. Charlie Melancon and James Oberstar.
While showing Scott around his new namesake vessel, Blessey told him how he and his towboat industry colleagues helped “move [Rep.] Oberstar’s needle” on inland waterways issues while Oberstar (who resigned in 2011 and died this year) chaired the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Blessey remembered that he was showing Oberstar around the new boat named after him when Oberstar’s wife said, “Jim, how come this boat has a nicer kitchen than ours?” Whereupon Oberstar turned to Blessey and said, “Walter, you just cost me a lot of money!”
With an 84-foot length and 38-foot width, the mv. Tim Scott has a maximum draft of nine feet, three inches. Its four decks provide accommodations for six crewmembers.
Power is supplied by two Cummins KTA38M engines at 1,000 hp. each, through two Reintjes WAF572 gears (provided by Karl Senner) at a ratio of 7.1:1 to the two Sound 78- by 62-inch four-blade propellers.
The vessel’s service power is provided by two Tier III Cummins QSB7DM gensets generating 85 kw. each.
Steering and system controls were supplied by Rio Controls & Hydraulics Steering, Rexroth Engine Controls, and the navigation electronics by D&G Communications. The vessel’s water tanks carry up to 10,000 gallons of potable water.
Ancillary equipment includes Hiller Fire Suppression, alarm and monitoring systems from Baton Rouge Marine Electrical Services, a Blue Box recording system, Simms motion monitoring system, two 40-ton Patterson deck winches, and two remote-controlled Xenon Spotlights.
The mv. Tim Scott began life as one of three boats being built for another company when construction was halted due to a dispute. Construction on the Scott was taken over by Southwest Shipyard LP of Channelview, Texas, whose president, Read Boles, attended the christening. Both Boles and Blessey said that the construction schedule was “not a straight line,” especially when Scott moved up his available date by two weeks.
But everyone was happy with the result, and Boles said he hopes to build more boats for Blessey.
As Blessey put it during his remarks, “Surround yourself with great people, and good things will happen.”Tim Scott Christening