"Great Statesman" takes Senate oath

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Roger Wicker used the phrase "improbable journey" on Friday to describe the last 12 months of his life. Last November, he was a congressman from north Mississippi. A year later, he's the newly elected United States senator for the entire state.

The latest stop on Senator Wicker's journey brought him to Gulfport on Friday to take his ceremonial oath of office. At the end of a long, hard, very expensive campaign, Roger Wicker and Mississippi republicans got what they were after. The man appointed senator in December was elected to the post on Tuesday.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering emceed his swearing in ceremony.

"One of our sons has the opportunity to represent the citizens of this great state at an important time in the history of our nation," Pickering told the crowd at Wicker's party.

Moments later, Wicker stepped forward with his wife by his side. He placed his left hand on a family bible, and raised his right hand in the air.

"I, Roger F. Wicker," he said, repeating the words read by Federal Judge Dan Russell.

As he took his oath, Mississippi's junior United States Senator realized he faced what could be an even harder challenge than his campaign. He must somehow get his conservative values through a Senate, and now a White House, that's controlled by democrats.

"Clearly it makes it harder," Wicker said after the ceremony. "I'm hopeful that the new leadership in Washington will not rush out immediately with plans for larger government and tax increases on hard working Americans."

More than 100 people jammed into a Gulfport courtroom to witness this climactic moment in Sen. Wicker's long, often ugly senatorial race.

As he got to the end of the oath and said its final four words, "so help me God," Wicker smiled. He reached his hand out to Judge Russell and said thank you.

Wicker then turned to his supporters and said, "I realize that I follow today in the footsteps of some giants."

Those giants include Trent Lott and John Stennis. They were the last two senators who held Wicker's seat. Both of them had south Mississippi roots. Though Wicker is from the north, he vows to protect coastal interests.

"I'm going to be as strong and effective a representative of south Mississippi as I had the opportunity to be for 13 years as a member of the United States House of Representatives," said Wicker.

One of the guests invited to speak on Wicker's behalf was Sen. Billy Hewes. The Gulfport man worked with Wicker when they both were in the Mississippi legislature.

"Roger has been a very good leader. He's on his way to being a great statesman," said Hewes.