Raphael Warnock becomes Georgia's first black senator

A Democrat pastor who leads the congregation at Martin Luther King Jr.'s church and whose mother used to pick cotton has been elected Georgia's first black Senator.

Raphael Warnock, 51, claimed victory in the first of the state's two Senate runoffs Wednesday, defeating Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler and becoming the first Democrat winner in 20 years. 

'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,' he told his supporters last night.

'We proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.' 

Georgia is still awaiting the result in the second runoff but it looks likely Democrat Jon Ossoff will oust Republican David Perdue in that race too in a brutal night for the GOP. 

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Warnock's victory is a symbol of a striking shift in Georgia's politics as the swelling number of diverse, college-educated voters flex their power in the heart of the Deep South. 

Raphael Warnock with his parents Verlene and Jonathan Warnock after his graduation from Morehouse College

Raphael Warnock with his parents Verlene and Jonathan Warnock after his graduation from Morehouse College 

Raphael Warnock and his now ex-wife Ouleye Ndoye pictured together in September 2018 at Dr. Christine King Farris 90th Birthday Celebration in Atlanta. The pair divorced in May and shortly before the election police bodycam footage emerged showing a dispute between the pair during which Ndoye alleged Warnock ran over her foot with his car. He was never charged

Raphael Warnock and his now ex-wife Ouleye Ndoye pictured together in September 2018 at Dr. Christine King Farris 90th Birthday Celebration in Atlanta. The pair divorced in May and shortly before the election police bodycam footage emerged showing a dispute between the pair during which Ndoye alleged Warnock ran over her foot with his car. He was never charged

His father, a veteran of the Second World War, worked as a preacher, mechanic in Savnnah

His father, a veteran of the Second World War, worked as a preacher, mechanic in Savnnah 

It follows Biden's win in November, when he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.

The Associated Press declared Warnock the winner after an analysis of outstanding votes showed there was no way for Loeffler to catch up to his lead.

Warnock's mother Verlene who used to pick tobacco and cotton during the summers

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Warnock's mother Verlene who used to pick tobacco and cotton during the summers

Warnock's edge is likely to grow as more ballots are counted, many of which were in Democratic-leaning areas.

The divorced father-of-two acknowledged his improbable victory in a message to supporters, citing his family's experience with poverty. 

He grew up in the projects of Savannah with 11 brothers and sisters.

His father Jonathan, a veteran of the Second World War, worked as a preacher, mechanic and his mother Verlene used to pick tobacco and cotton during the summers.

'My family was short on money, but long on love and faith,' Warnock wrote earlier this year. 'They (his parents) worked hard for what they had and saw the value in what others had discarded.'

Energised by his parents belief that he could do anything, Warnock gained a scholarship to the historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta. 

He later earned a doctorate in philosophy from Union Theological Seminary, a school affiliated with Columbia University in Manhattan.   

In the 1990s, Warnock worked as a youth pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and protested against Mayor Rudy Giuliani's workfare program to cut benefits and get people into employment.

'We are worried that workfare is being used to displace other workers who receive respectable compensation,' Warnock told the New York Times in 1997.

'We are concerned that poor people are being put into competition with other poor people, and in that respect, we think workfare is a hoax.' 

Rev. Raphael Warnock delivers the eulogy for Rayshard Brooks' funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in June

Rev. Raphael Warnock delivers the eulogy for Rayshard Brooks' funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in June 

In 2013, Warnock delivered the benediction at the public prayer service at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. Obama is pictured giving the eulogy at the funeral service for the late Rep. John Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 30, 2020

In 2013, Warnock delivered the benediction at the public prayer service at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. Obama is pictured giving the eulogy at the funeral service for the late Rep. John Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 30, 2020

In the early 2000s, he moved to become the senior pastor of senior pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, Maryland.

And in 2006, he was appointed the leader of MLK's former congregation at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta - the youngest senior pastor since its founding.

'Fourteen years ago, the

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