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Joe Wilson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 2nd district
Assumed office
December 18, 2001
Preceded byFloyd Spence
Member of the South Carolina Senate
from the 23rd district
In office
January 8, 1985 – December 18, 2001
Preceded byDistrict established
Succeeded byJake Knotts
Personal details
Addison Graves Wilson

(1947-07-31) July 31, 1947 (age 73)
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Roxanne McCrory
(m. 1978)
Children4, including Alan
EducationWashington and Lee University (BA)
University of South Carolina (JD)
WebsiteHouse website
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1972–2003[1]
UnitUnited States Army Reserve (1972–1975)
South Carolina Army National Guard (1975–2003)

Addison Graves "Joe" Wilson Sr. (born July 31, 1947) is an American politician and attorney serving as the U.S. Representative for South Carolina's 2nd congressional district since 2001. A member of the Republican Party, his district stretches from the state capital, Columbia, to the Georgia–South Carolina border. He previously served as the South Carolina State Senator from the 23rd district from 1985 to 2001.

He is a member of the House Republican Policy Committee and is an Assistant Republican Whip.[2]

In September 2009, Wilson interrupted a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama to a joint session of Congress by shouting, "You lie!"[3] The incident resulted in a reprimand by the House of Representatives.[4]

Early life and education

Wilson was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Wray (née Graves) and Hugh deVeaux Wilson.[5] Wilson obtained a bachelor's degree in political science from Washington and Lee University in 1969 where he joined Sigma Nu,[6] and obtained his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1972.[7][8]

Early career

From 1972 to 1975, Wilson served in the United States Army Reserve, and then as a Staff Judge Advocate in the South Carolina Army National Guard assigned to the 218th Mechanized Infantry Brigade until retiring from military service as a colonel in 2003.[9]

A real estate attorney, Wilson co-accounted the law firm Kirkland, Wilson, Moore, Taylor & Thomas[10] in West Columbia, where he practiced for over 25 years. Wilson was also a municipal judge in Springdale, South Carolina.[11]

Wilson was active in South Carolina Republican politics when the party barely existed in the state. He took part in his first Republican campaign in 1962, when he was 15 years old. He served as an aide to Senator Strom Thurmond and to his district's Congressman, Floyd Spence.

In 1981 and 1982, during the first term of the Reagan Administration, Wilson served as deputy general counsel for former Governor Jim Edwards at the U.S. Department of Energy. Wilson is also a graduate of Morton Blackwell's Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia.[12]

South Carolina Senate

Wilson was elected to the South Carolina Senate in 1984 as a Republican from Lexington County. He was re-elected four times, the last three times unopposed; Lexington County is one of the most Republican counties in the state. He never missed a regular legislative session in 17 years. After the Republicans gained control of the chamber in 1996, he became the first Republican to serve as Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. Wilson was a member of the Columbia College Board of Visitors and Coker College Board of Trustees.

During his tenure in the South Carolina Senate, Wilson was the primary sponsor of bills which included the following: establishing a National Guard license plate,[13] providing paid leave for state employees to perform disaster relief services,[14] and requiring men aged 18–26 to register for the Selective Service System when applying for a driver's license.[15] In 2000, Wilson was one of seven senators who voted against removing the Confederate battle flag from being displayed over the state house.[16]

U.S. House of Representatives

Committee assignments

Official House photo portrait (109th Congress)
Official House photo portrait (109th Congress)
Wilson with President George W. Bush in 2002
Wilson with President George W. Bush in 2002

As of the 113th Congress, Wilson served on three standing committees and various subcommittees overseeing specific areas of legislation. Wilson serves on the Committee on Armed Services and is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel;[17] he also serves on the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.[18] He serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, for which he also is a member of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions.[19] As a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Wilson serves on the Subcommittee on Europe[20] and Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.[21] Wilson is a member of the Republican Study Committee[22] and the Tea Party Caucus.

Caucus memberships

Like his former boss, Spence, Wilson is an ardent social and fiscal conservative.[30]

In 2003, Wilson voted for the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, including its Section 1011 authorizing $250,000 annually of taxpayer money to reimburse hospitals for treatment of illegal immigrants. In 2009, Wilson changed to his current position opposing public funds for healthcare of illegal immigrants.[31]


Wilson has sponsored and co-sponsored a number of bills, concerning teacher recruitment and retention, college campus fire safety, National Guard troop levels, arming airline pilots, tax credits for adoptions, tax credits for living organ donors, and state defense forces.

As of January 2006, eight bills co-sponsored by Wilson have passed the House,[32] including H.R. 1973, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, making safe water and sanitation an objective of U.S. assistance to developing countries.[33]

Wilson is a staunch advocate of a federal prohibition of online poker. In 2006, he co-sponsored H.R. 4411, the Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act[34] and H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.[35]

He has cited as one of his proudest congressional achievements the Drafting Business Expensing Act of 2003[citation needed], which allows businesses to immediately write-off fifty percent of the cost of business equipment and machinery. This bonus depreciation provision has been extended for 2008 and 2009 in two separate stimulus bills.[36][37] In addition, Wilson spearheaded the Drafting Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2003, which offers higher education loan forgiveness to math, science and special education teachers in schools with a predominantly low income student population.[38] He cites as his most important vote the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.[38]

"You lie!" outburst during Obama address

Wilson's interruption of President Obama's address (at 00:15)
Wilson's interruption of President Obama's address (at 00:15)

On September 9, 2009, during a joint address to congress by President Barack Obama which was nationally televised, Joe Wilson shouted "You lie!"[39][40][41][42] Obama was outlining his proposal for reforming health care and said: "There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false—the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally."[43]

Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel immediately approached senior Republican lawmakers and asked them to identify the heckler and urge him to apologize immediately.[44] Members of Congress from both parties condemned the outburst. "Totally disrespectful", said Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) of Wilson's utterance. "No place for it in that setting or any other and he should apologize immediately."[45][46] Wilson said later in a statement:

This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President's remarks regarding the coverage of undocumented immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility.[47]

Obama later accepted Wilson's apology. "I'm a big believer that we all make mistakes", he said. "He apologized quickly and without equivocation and I'm appreciative of that."[48]

House Democrats called on Wilson to issue a formal apology on the House floor.[49] House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn who led the resolution said "This is about the rules of the House", while House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said "What's at issue here is of importance to the House and of importance to the country ... This House cannot stay silent".

Wilson refused to make an apology to the House of Representatives, saying in a televised interview, "I believe one apology is sufficient."[50] Congressional Republicans agreed, and opposed further action, with Minority Leader John Boehner saying "I think this is a sad day for the House of Representatives ... I think this is a political stunt aimed at distracting the American people from what they really care about, which is health care."[51] On September 15, the House approved a "resolution of disapproval" against Wilson, on 240–179 vote almost exactly along party lines.[52]

Wilson said afterwards that his outburst reflected his view that Obama's bill would have provided government-subsidized benefits to illegal immigrants.[53] Several fact-checking organizations wrote that Wilson's views were inaccurate because HR 3200 expressly excludes undocumented aliens from receiving government-subsidized "affordability credits".[54][55][56] The non-partisan Congressional Research Service agreed that people would need to be lawfully present in the U.S. in order to be eligible for the credits, but noted that the bill did not bar non-citizens from buying their own health insurance coverage through the health insurance exchange.[57][58] The Obama administration said that, in the final bill, undocumented immigrants would not be able to participate in the Exchange.[59] Such language was included in the Senate Finance Committee's version of the bill, America's Healthy Future Act.[60][61]

Following the incident, both Wilson and Democrat Rob Miller, his subsequent 2010 general election opponent, experienced a significant upswing in campaign donations. In the week after Wilson's outburst, Miller raised $1.6 million, about three times his 2008 campaign,[62] while Wilson raised $1.8 million.[63]

Apology for remarks about hatred of America

On a 2002 live broadcast of the C-SPAN talk show Washington Journal, guests Wilson and Democratic congressman Bob Filner were discussing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. When Filner noted that the US provided Iraq with "chemical and biological weapons" in the 1980s, Wilson stated that this idea was "made up" and commented to Filner, "This hatred of America by some people is just outrageous. And you need to get over that." Wilson apologized for his remarks in statements to the press.[64][65]

Apology for remarks about Strom Thurmond's daughter

In 2003, Essie Mae Washington-Williams revealed she was the daughter of Wilson's former employer, the late Senator Strom Thurmond, and Thurmond's black maid. Wilson was among those who publicly doubted her assertion that Thurmond had a child out of wedlock. Wilson said even if her story was true, she should not have revealed it because "it's a smear" on Thurmond's image and was a way to "diminish" Thurmond's legacy.[66] After Thurmond's family acknowledged the truth of Washington-Williams' revelation, Wilson apologized, but said that he still thought that she should not have revealed that Thurmond was her father.[67]

Texas v. Pennsylvania

In December 2020, Wilson was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives who signed an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed at the United States Supreme Court contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Joe Biden prevailed[68] over incumbent Donald Trump. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case on the basis that Texas lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge the results of the election held by another state.[69][70][71]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that called signing the amicus brief an act of "election subversion." Additionally, Pelosi reprimanded Wilson and the other House members who supported the lawsuit: "The 126 Republican Members that signed onto this lawsuit brought dishonor to the House. Instead of upholding their oath to support and defend the Constitution, they chose to subvert the Constitution and undermine public trust in our sacred democratic institutions."[72][73] New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell, citing section three of the 14th Amendment, called for Pelosi to not seat Wilson and the other Republicans who signed the brief supporting the suit. Pascrell argued that "the text of the 14th Amendment expressly forbids Members of Congress from engaging in rebellion against the United States. Trying to overturn a democratic election and install a dictator seems like a pretty clear example of that."[74]

Other notable events

In November 2009, the New York Times reported that Representatives Wilson and Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo) made identical written statements, saying that "One of the reasons I have long supported the U.S. biotechnology industry is that it is a homegrown success story that has been an engine of job creation in this country. Unfortunately, many of the largest companies that would seek to enter the biosimilar market have made their money by outsourcing their research to foreign countries like India." The statement was originally drafted by lobbyists for Genentech, now a Swiss biotechnology firm, but founded, and still headquartered in San Francisco, California.[75]

Wilson supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to impose a temporary ban on entry to the U.S. to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, saying that the order would "secure our borders and keep American families safe from terrorist attacks."[76]

On April 10, 2017, a Wilson town hall meeting at Aiken Technical College in Graniteville, South Carolina was interrupted by activists chanting "you lie" as the Congressman asserted that the Affordable Care Act was causing people to be denied health services.[77]

In 2018, a segment with Wilson aired as part of Sacha Baron Cohen's Showtime series, Who is America?. Wilson endorses "Kinderguardians," a phony program to teach and arm schoolchildren as young as 3 to protect themselves in the classroom.[78] Advocating for toddler carry, he states on camera "A 3-year-old cannot defend itself from an assault rifle by throwing a Hello Kitty pencil case at it".[79]

Political campaigns

South Carolina's 2nd congressional district: Results 2000–2018[80][81]
Year Name Party Votes Percentage
2000 Floyd Spence[a] Republican 154,338 57%
Jane Frederick Democrat 110,672 41%
Timothy Moultrie Libertarian 3,622 1%
George C. Taylor Natural Law 2,273 1%
write-ins 71 0%
2001[a] Joe Wilson Republican 40,355 73%
Brent Weaver Democrat 14,034 25%
Warren Eilertson Libertarian 420 1%
Steve Lefemine Constitution 404 1%
write-ins 1 0%
2002 Joe Wilson Republican 144,149 84%
Mark Whittington United Citizens 17,189 10%
James R. Legg Libertarian 9,650 6%
write-ins 371 0%
2004 Joe Wilson Republican 181,862 65%
Michael Ellisor Democrat 93,249 33%
Steve Lefemine Constitution 4,447 2%
write-ins 312 0%
2006 Joe Wilson Republican 127,811 63%
Michael Ellisor Democrat 76,090 37%
write-ins 151 0%
2008 Joe Wilson Republican 184,583 54%
Rob Miller Democrat 158,627 46%
write-ins 276 0%
2010 Joe Wilson Republican 138,755 53%
Rob Miller Democrat 113,354 44%
Eddie McCain Libertarian 4,212 2%
Marc Beaman Constitution 2,856 1%
2012 Joe Wilson Republican 196,116 96%
write-ins 7,602 4%
2014 Joe Wilson Republican 121,891 62%
Phil Black Democrat 68,871 35%
Harold Geddings III Labor Party 4,173 2%
write-ins 287 0%
2016 Joe Wilson Republican 183,746 62%
Arik Bjorn Democrat 109,452 35%
Eddie McCain American 11,444 3%
write-ins 287 0%
2018 Joe Wilson Republican 144,642 56.3%
Sean Carrigan Democrat 109,199 42.5%
Sonny Narang American 3,121 1.2%
write-ins 185 0.1%
  1. ^ a b Floyd Spence died in office, causing the 2001 special election to be held. Wilson served the remainder of the term.

Wilson was elected in 2001 in a special election caused by the death of Floyd Spence, his former boss. Wilson once said that a dying Spence called him from his hospital bed and asked him to run.[82]

In a crowded five-way Republican primary—the real contest in this heavily Republican district—Wilson tallied 75 percent of the vote, more than enough to win the nomination outright. He prevailed in the December 18 special election with 73 percent of the vote.[83]

Wilson won election to a full term in 2002 with 84 percent of the vote, facing four minor-party candidates.[83] He received 144,149 votes to 17,189 and 9,650 minor party candidates with 371 write-in votes.[84]

Wilson was mentioned as a possible candidate for retiring Senator Fritz Hollings' seat in 2004, but he decided to run for a second full term and beat his opponents, Democrat Michael Ellisor and Constitution Party nominee Steve Lefemine, with 65 percent of the vote.[83] Wilson got 181,862 votes to 93,249 for Democrat Ellisor, and 4,447 for minor party candidate Lefemine, with 312 write-ins.[85]


In the 2006 elections, he defeated Ellisor again, gaining 62.7 percent of the vote, and kept his House seat.[86]


See also: 2008 United States House of Representatives elections in South Carolina § District 2

Wilson won re-election in November 2008, defeating the Democratic nominee, Iraq War veteran Rob Miller, 54% to 46%.[87] It was the closest race in the district in 20 years, and the closest race that Wilson had ever faced in 24 years as an elected official. He only survived by winning his native Lexington County by 33,000 votes, more than the overall margin of 26,000 votes.


See also: 2010 United States House of Representatives elections in South Carolina § District 2

Challenged by Democratic nominee Rob Miller, Libertarian nominee Eddie McCain, and Constitution Party nominee Marc Beaman,[88] Wilson won re-election on November 2, 2010, defeating Miller 53% to 44%.


See also: 2012 United States House of Representatives elections in South Carolina § District 2

Redistricting made the 2nd somewhat more compact. It lost Beaufort and Hilton Head Island. To make up for the loss in population, it absorbed all of Aiken County and a slice of Orangeburg County.

In the November 2012 general election, Wilson ran unopposed and was re-elected with 96% of the vote.


See also: 2014 United States House of Representatives elections in South Carolina § District 2

Challenged by Democratic nominee Phil Black, and Labor Party nominee Harold Geddings III,[89] Wilson won re-election on November 4, 2014, defeating Black 62% to 35%.


Challenged by Democratic nominee Arik Bjorn, and American Party nominee Eddie McCain,[90] Wilson won re-election on November 8, 2016, defeating Bjorn 62% to 35%.


Challenged by Democratic nominee Sean Carrigan and American Party candidate Sonny Narang, Wilson won re-election on November 6, 2018, defeating Carrigan 56.3% to 42.5%.[91]

Personal life

This section of a biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately, especially if potentially libelous or harmful.Find sources: "Joe Wilson" American politician – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (January 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

An Associate Reformed Presbyterian,[92] Wilson and his wife, Roxanne Dusenbury McCrory Wilson, have four sons and six grandchildren. All four sons are Eagle Scouts.

In a 2005 guest article on Rediff.com, Wilson stated that his father, Hugh, was a member of the Flying Tigers in World War II.[93] The Wilson family attends First Presbyterian Church in Columbia.[92][11]

Wilson has been a member and former President or Chairman of the Cayce-West Columbia Rotary Club, Sheriff's Department Law Enforcement Advisory Council, Reserve Officers Association, Lexington County Historical Society, County Community and Resource Development Committee, American Heart Association, Mid-Carolina Mental Health Association, and NationsBank Lexington Advisory Board.

Wilson has also been a member of the Columbia World Affairs Council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Woodmen of the World, Sons of Confederate Veterans, American Legislative Exchange Council, Navy League, AMVETS, Association of the US Army, National Guard Association, Air Force Association, American Legion and Boy Scouts of America.[94] He is also a member of the masonic Sinclair Lodge of West Columbia, South Carolina, South Carolina.[95]

See also


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  88. ^ Official candidate list SC Secretary of State
  89. ^ "South Carolina Election Commission Official Results". West Virginia Secretary of State. November 4, 2014. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
  90. ^ "South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District election, 2016 - Ballotpedia". Ballotpedia. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  91. ^ "South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District election, 2018 - Ballotpedia". Ballotpedia. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  92. ^ a b "Church History". First Presbyterian of Columbia. Archived from the original on July 1, 2013. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
  93. ^ Wilson, Joe (September 28, 2005). "Where the world is without fear". Rediff. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
  94. ^ "U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson: Biography". Archived from the original on February 25, 2005. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  95. ^ https://www.politico.com/story/2009/09/in-search-of-the-hills-freemasons-027639
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Floyd Spence
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 2nd congressional district

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Stephen Lynch
United States representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Michael C. Burgess