Rev. Raphael Warnock just became the first Black senator in Georgia history

Georgia elected its first Black senator on Jan. 5. The Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, won one of Georgia’s two Senate runoffs, defeating Republican Kelly Loeffler in the special election.

Warnock will be the country’s 11th Black senator, making him part of a small group that includes President Barack Obama (who was a senator from Illinois), Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (senator from California) and Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina who in 2013 became the first Black senator to represent a Southern state since Reconstruction.

The 51-year-old is a pastor who spent 15 years leading Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached.

Warnock took to Twitter to share his happiness in winning the election, writing, “Joy comes in the morning. Thank you, Georgia.”

The Democrat’s victory is further evidence of Georgia’s shifting politics. In November, President-elect Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.

Warnock is the 11th of 12 children. He grew up in Savannah, Georgia, in public housing, and was the first college graduate in his family. He attended Morehouse College, a historically Black college, on a mix of financial aid, scholarships, loans and grants. Growing up in a poor family was a powerful experience for him, and he mentioned his mother in a speech he gave after securing the win.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” Warnock said in an address on Jan. 6, AP reported. “Tonight, we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”

In an interview on “Good Morning America,” Warnock acknowledged that his election was a milestone. “Certainly this is a historic moment and I’m just deeply grateful to be a vessel in a moment in which we’re facing such large problems in our country, and I can’t wait to get to the U.S. Senate to represent the concerns of ordinary people.”

“Georgia is in such an incredible place when you think about the arc of our history — we are sending an African-American pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church where Martin Luther King Jr. served” to the Senate, he said.