First African-American Elected to Senate by Popular Vote Dies (Updated)
Updated 7:13 p.m. | Trailblazing former Sen. Edward W. Brooke has died, the Boston Globe reported Saturday. He was 95. Funeral Services are scheduled for Saturday at the National Cathedral.
The Massachusetts Republican was the first African-American to serve in the Senate since Reconstruction and the first to be elected by popular vote, serving in the chamber from 1967 to 1979. It would be more than a decade before the election of the next black senator: Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois.
Outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Saturday that Brooke should be considered among the commonwealth’s legendary senators.
“Massachusetts has a history of sending giants to the United States Senate, great statesmen like Quincy Adams, Webster, Cabot Lodge and Kennedy. We count Ed Brooke among them,” Patrick said in a statement. “He carried the added honor and burden of being ‘the first’ and did so with distinction and grace. I have lost a friend and mentor. America has lost a superb example of public service. Diane and I extend our deepest condolences to the Brooke family.”
The Globe sourced the news to the Massachusetts Republican Party Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes, who later released a statement: “Any one of his single accomplishments would be remarkable, and yet Senator Brooke could lay claim to so many milestones,” she said. “A decorated war hero, this Massachusetts Republican was a highly respected legislator responsible for shaping our nation’s laws and ensuring equal rights for all men and women.”
Condolences came in from senators via Twitter. Among the first was Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.
“Deeply saddened by the loss of Senator Edward Brooke. He was a true trailblazer; those of us who followed cannot thank him enough,” said Scott, the only other African-American Republican to win popular election to the Senate.
“I’m very sorry to hear about Sen. Edward Brooke’s passing. He was a trailblazer for Massachusetts and our country,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said.
Brooke was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009. During the ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, President Barack Obama was among the guest speakers .
“Now, with his lifetime of achievement, Ed is no stranger to a good awards ceremony. He’s been through a few of these,” Obama said at that event. “He’s won the Bronze Star, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, honorary degrees from 34 colleges and universities, and more. So he’s a pro when it comes to getting awards. But I think today’s honor bears a unique significance: bestowed by this body of which he was an esteemed member; presented in this place where he moved the arc of history; surrounded by so many — myself included — who have followed the trail that he blazed.”
Brooke was born in Washington, D.C., and attended public schools there before graduating from Howard University. He earned a law degree from Boston University after serving as an Army captain in World War II. He was twice elected attorney general of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts before winning two terms to the Senate.