raphael warnock

Raphael Warnock Projected Winner of Georgia Runoff: Five Things to Know

Warnock, the 11th out of 12 siblings, was named for an archangel and a revered Jewish scholar, and gave his first sermon when he was 11.

Democrat Raphael Warnock celebrated his projected victory Wednesday morning in his special Senate runoff election against Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. 

"I can't tell you how honored I am that the people of my home state where I was born and raised and educated at Morehouse College have decided to send me to the United States Senate to represent their concerns at this defining moment in American history, [at] a time when people are suffering in so many ways," Warnock said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show. 

Warnock, the 11th out of 12 siblings, was named for an archangel and a revered Jewish scholar, and gave his first sermon when he was 11. Here are five things to know about Warnock.

Making History

Warnock will be Georgia's first Black senator and the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate in the South.

His Very Humble Beginnings

When Warnock declared victory early Wednesday morning he took a moment to reflect on his mother’s hands. Before she was a mother of 12 and a Pentecostal pastor, Verlene Warnock spent her summers in Waycross, Ga., picking cotton and tobacco in the 1950s.

“The 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” Warnock said in a live-streamed address. “The improbable journey that led me to this place in this historic moment in America could only happen here.”

His Connection to MLK

In 2005, Warnock became the youngest person ever to assume the role of senior pastor at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Amongst his parishioners were the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. Warnock indicated previously he did not intend to step down from Ebenezer in the event of a victory. Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, is the only member of the clergy currently serving in the Senate.

His Fight Against Social Injustice

After Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager in a hooded sweatshirt, was shot and killed during his walk home in a Florida subdivision, Warnock appeared in the pulpit wearing a hoodie. He has over the years lent his name and voice for several causes fighting against social injustice. In 2007 Warnock took up the cause of Genarlow Wilson, a star athlete and prom king who was sentenced to 10 years for a consensual sexual encounter with a 15-year-old when he was 17. Wilson was ultimately freed.

Spreading a Progressive Message

Warnock has pressed Black churches to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ community and has said they have been “shamefully slow” to focus on gender inequality, insisting churches need to fight both sexism and patriarchal structures.