MA Republican Edward W. Brooke, first black Senator elected after Reconstruction, passes away at 95

MA Republican Edward W. Brooke, first black Senator elected after Reconstruction, passes away at 95

Edward W. Brooke, the Massachusetts Republican who was the first African-American to be elected to the US Senate since Reconstruction, died today, according to Kirsten Hughes, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party. He was 95.

Mr. Brooke served in the Senate from 1967-1979. Elected attorney general in 1962 and reelected two years later, he was the first African-American to hold that office in any state. …

Mr. Brooke’s electoral success carried enormous symbolic weight. He was a figure of national, even international, prominence. A few months after he went to Washington, a bumpersticker appeared, “The New Look — Romney and Brooke ’68” (“Romney” was Michigan Governor George Romney, the father of future Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney).

At various times, President Richard Nixon offered Mr. Brooke the posts of secretary of Housing and Urban Development, secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and ambassador to the United Nations. …

Mr. Brooke’s eminence had a paradoxical aspect. What made him such a figure of racial progress wasn’t his emphasizing race but transcending it. …

Edward William Brooke III was born on Oct. 26, 1919. His father, Edward W. Brooke Jr., was a lawyer with the Veterans Administration. His mother was the former Helen Seldon. The Brookes were comfortably middle class. “It would make a better story if some white man had kicked me or yelled ‘nigger,’ ” Mr. Brooke once noted, “but it just never happened. I grew up segregated, but there was not much feeling of being shut out of anything.”

Mr. Brooke graduated from Howard University in 1941. During World War II, he served in the Army infantry. He rose to the rank of captain, saw combat in Italy, and was awarded a Bronze Star. While in Italy, he met Remigia Ferrari-Scacco. They married in 1947. Mr. Brooke had been stationed at Fort Devens prior to shipping overseas and liked what he’d seen of the area. In addition, two Army buddies from Boston urged him to relocate here. He enrolled at Boston University School of Law in 1946. … He was editor of the law review and graduated in 1948. Mr. Brooke set up a one-man practice in Roxbury. …

In 2004, Mr. Brooke was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He published an autobiography, “Bridging the Divide,” in 2006. Three years later, two days after turning 90, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

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