Tim Scott was the friendly high school kid working at a North Charleston movie theater who would order French fries and water at John Monizs Chick-fil-A.
One day, Moniz asked why Scott didnt order more food.
Scott said he couldnt afford it.
Moniz took a bag of sandwiches to the theater one day and began mentoring Scott, who was struggling to stay in school.
Monizs Christian-based lessons on life and business provided the high-schooler with direction that, 30 years later, Scott credited with helping lead him to the U.S. Senate.
At the time, we dont know who were influencing and what they might do with their lives, said Monizs widow, Janice. God put him in that theater.
Scotts appointment Monday by Gov. Nikki Haley to the seat being vacated by Jim DeMint capped the North Charleston Republicans rapid political ascension from Charleston County Council in 2008, to the S.C. House to the U.S. House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate. When he is sworn in on Jan. 3, Scott will become South Carolinas first African-American U.S. senator and the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.
Scotts life was forged under the steady hand of his mother, Frances, who raised him after his parents divorced and worked long hours as a nursing assistant.
But Scott gained a purpose and drive under Moniz, a Citadel graduate and Air Force veteran who owned the fast-food restaurant across from the Northwoods mall movie theater where the teenager worked. Addressing those gathered for his historic appointment, Scott, who built a successful insurance career before entering politics, credited Moniz with teaching him basic biblical business principles.
My mother tilled the soil sometimes it was difficult, hard soil and she taught me responsibility, discipline, Scott, 47, told The State Wednesday. John dropped the seeds in fertile soil and, in time, they germinated and a root system started to grow. ... He was a blessing from God.
Potential with Tim
Scott was failing many of his classes early in high school, including both English and Spanish. Scott joked at his news conference Monday that, in high school, he was not bilingual.
Instead, he said, They may refer to you as bi-ignorant because you cant speak in any language.
I was being a normal 14-year-old, not always paying attention to what was happening in my life, Scott said Wednesday.
After dropping by that first bag of Chick-fil-A sandwiches, Moniz would visit Scott every other week or so.
It was a slow process over three or four years, Scott said. He did things in simple ways. We had little chats at the theater, and we went to Citadel basketball games. He talked to me about motivation and life values.
Moniz followed Zig Ziglar, a Christian-centric motivational speaker known for his sayings such as, Building a better you is the first step to building a better America.
Johnny had a gift from God to help people, said Janice Moniz, 65, of Johns Island. He was big into motivating and encouraging people, and he took Tim under his wing. I know John saw a lot of potential with Tim.
The differences in their backgrounds mattered little to John Moniz, who would say simply that what separated the African-American Scott and the white restaurateur was a few zeros on their paychecks.
He never thought of race, Janice Moniz said. He was helping a good man who cared for people.
Scott made up for his academic shortcomings by being a likeable person, Janice Moniz said. He was so easy to talk to.
Scott also became friends with the Monizs oldest child, Brian, six years younger than the future senator.
They became the mayors of the mall, Janice Moniz said.
That got one of the mayors into trouble.
My mom fired me at least six times because of that, said Brian Moniz, 41, of Summerville. Every time she called for me, I was down in the mall with Tim.
Keeping it going
John Moniz died at age 37 in 1985 of a pulmonary embolism while Scott was a sophomore in college. Scott wrote a poem to his mentor and updated his lifes mission statement, changing his goal from being a positive influence to a million people to a billion people.
Im not sure I knew how big a number that was at the time, Scott said.
On the first anniversary of her husbands death, Scott brought Janice Moniz a rose and a sympathy card signed, From your adopted son.
Thats the kind of person he is, she said.
John Monizs teachings also helped Scott console Brian Moniz when he would get upset about his fathers death. I was able to share with him what I learned from his father, Scott said.
Scott was a groomsman at Brian Monizs wedding, and Brian Moniz helped Scott with his 2010 congressional campaign. The pair who used to toss a football inside the Northwoods movie theater lobby still talk weekly.
If you help people with what they want, you can get what you want, said Brian Moniz, who last year sold his Chick-fil-A restaurant outside Myrtle Beach to train to become a Charleston County Sheriffs deputy. I think thats what he (Scott) is doing for the state of South Carolina.
Scott accepted the Senate seat on Sunday during a visit with Haley at the Governors Mansion.
The next day was a whirlwind. While driving to Columbia from Charleston with his mother, Scott said he caught himself stressing about what he would say at the news conference.
Then, he took a deep breath and began reflecting on his lifes journey with his mother. Eventually, his thoughts turned to John Moniz. Scott realized the news conference was being held on what would have been John Monizs 65th birthday.
He texted Brian Moniz later Monday about his father: Hey man ... just wanted to say I love you brother.
It was the most awesome thing in the world to see him up there, knowing where he came from and that my dad took time for someone he did not know and built that relationship and helped him show his potential, Brian Moniz said.
Janice Moniz said she still can envision Scott as a teenager, sitting in the movie theaters ticket window.
We are so proud of his accomplishments, she said. And I think He still has big plans for Tim.
Janice Moniz thinks Scott is destined for the White House and will carry a piece of her late husband with him.
Tim is taking what John did, she said, and keeping it going.