The Republican Party chose its first black national chairman, just shy of three months after the nation elected a Democrat as the first black president.
The choice marked no less than "the dawn of a new party", declared the new chairman, Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland.
Republicans chose Mr Steele over four other candidates.
Mr Steele takes the helm of a beleaguered political party that is trying to recover after crushing defeats in November's national elections that gave Democrats control of Congress put Barack Obama in the White House.
Republican delegates erupted in cheers and applause when Mr Steele's victory was announced, but it took six ballots to get there. He will serve a two-year term.
Mr Steele, an attorney, is a conservative, but he was considered the most moderate of the five candidates running.
He also was considered an outsider because he is not a member of the Republican National Committee.
But the 168-member RNC clearly signalled it wanted a change after eight years of Mr Bush largely dictating its every move as the party's standard-bearer.
Mr Steele became the first black candidate elected to statewide office in Maryland in 2002, and he made an unsuccessful Senate run in 2006.
The former chairman of the Maryland Republican Party currently serves as chairman of Gopac, an organisation that recruits and trains Republican political candidates. In that role he has been a frequent presence on the television talk show circuit.
He vowed to expand the reach of the party by competing for every group, everywhere.
"We're going to say to friend and foe alike: 'We want you to be a part of us. We want you to with be with us.' And for those who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over," Mr Steele said.
"There is not one inch of ground that we're going to cede to anybody," he added.
"This is the dawn of a new party moving in a new direction with strength and conviction."