scott gowdy unified seacoast church.jpg

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (center) and Congressman Trey Gowdy had both serious and light-hearted moments at a First Wednesday service at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant with Pastor Josh Surratt on April 4, 2018. The South Carolina Republicans have written a book about their unlikely friendship and how they see it as the key to reconciliation efforts at a divided time in our nation's history. Wade Spees/Staff

South Carolina congressman Trey Gowdy's high school geometry teacher stood at the front of the line Wednesday evening clutching a copy of the book his former student wrote with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.

"I kind of always knew he would be a lawyer based on the way he did his proofs," said Jim Kilbreth, who used to teach at Spartanburg High School but now lives in Summerville with his wife, Eileen.

He thumped the cover of the hardback and beamed in his navy suit.

"They're doing things the right away, and that doesn't happen often in Washington."

Close to 1,500 people packed into Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant while Kilbreth stood in line waiting with his wife. Those who could not grab a seat in the two-story sanctuary stood or sat in the church's hallways and watched an internal live-stream of the contemporary praise and worship service known as First Wednesday.

This time, though, the service doubled as a book event for Scott and Gowdy.

Their book, "Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country," was released Tuesday from Tyndale House Publishers. The company is considered one of the largest privately held Christian publishers of books, Bibles and digital media in the world.

The story is about how unexpected friendships like theirs could be the key to reconciliation during a deeply polarizing time in America.

By Wednesday afternoon, Scott and Gowdy's book was No. 5 on Amazon's Hot New Releases list.

The bookstore at Seacoast Church stocked 232 copies  and had sold more than 100 well before the two South Carolina Republicans walked onstage to discuss, as Scott put it, why it's important to "focus on the 80 percent we do have in common, as opposed to the other 20 percent."

"God's DNA is in all of us," Scott said. 

Scott's mother sat in the front row. Meanwhile, Tenzie Campbell, 71, shuffled around the bookstore to buy five copies.

"One for me and four for my friends," she said, sharing that she was an administrative assistant in North Charleston when Scott served on County Council. "I think he deserves to be in office, and I just admire them both for their honesty."

Gowdy, a former prosecutor, said his friendship with Scott opened his eyes to the African American perspective.

"I've never been black a moment in my life. Every time I was stopped by law enforcement was because I deserved to be stopped," he said.

Jocelyn Evans, associate dean and professor of finance at the College of Charleston, watched Gowdy and Scott on one of the TVs. She is African American and a regular parishioner for First Wednesday services at Seacoast. She did not know Scott and Gowdy would be speaking.

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"They have to do something more than just talk to people who are different from them, especially when the two of them are basically alike," she said as she watched.

"A lot of our problems today with racism, with inequity, with injustice, stem from a lack of resources and economics," she said. "You can't just get to know someone. You have to do something about it."

But this book, Gowdy and Scott said, is about people and not politics.

As people waited in line behind Gowdy's geometry teacher for the book-signing, they passed an innocuous paper sign with rules for the signing itself.

Action shots are allowed, the first rule stated. Expect a signature only, the second rule said.

But the third rule took aim at keeping division away from their book on unity.

"No signing of anything that has a political tone like 'lock her up' or 'down with Pelosi,' etc."

Three other book events in South Carolina are planned for this week.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.

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