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Watt, Melvin Luther (1945- )

Carolina in the 20th century, Mel Watts is a current member of the United States House of Representatives. Watts was born on August 26, 1945 in the small community of Steele Creek in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and attended high school in Charlotte. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1967. Watt was a Phi Beta Kappa and was president of the business honors fraternity. He also has a J.D. degree from Yale University Law School as well as honorary degrees from North Carolina A&T State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Bennett College and Fisk University.

Watt had a varied career before serving in Congress. Between 1971 and 1992 he practiced law with the firm formerly known as Chambers, Stein, Ferguson, and Becton.  He was also a small business owner and managed the campaigns of Harvey Gantt for Charlotte City Council, for Mayor of Charlotte and for the United States Senate from North Carolina. Watt also served in the North Carolina Senate from 1985 to 1987.  He did not seek a second term, postponing his political activity until his children were high school graduates. Watt was known during his single term as “the conscience of the senate.”

Melvin Watt was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1992 as a Democrat to represent the 12th Congressional District.  He is now in his 8th term.  Watt is a member of the House Financial Services Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. In the fall of 2004 he was unanimously elected Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, a position he held for two years.  He is also a member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Democratic Study Group, and the Steering Committee. Watt was a cosponsor of the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007.  In April 2006 Watt was one of five members of Congress arrested in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. as part of a protest of the

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