Edward Brooke, first African American elected to Senate, dies at 95

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Former Sen. Edward Brooke (R-Mass.), who ended an 85-year absence of African-American senators, died on Saturday at age 95, according to Kirsten Hughes, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party.

A former aide, Ralph Neas, says Brooke died of natural causes at his Coral Gables, Fla., home.

Brooke served in the Senate from 1967 to 1979 and, before that, he served as the Massachusetts attorney general. 

{mosads}He was born and raised in a segregated Washington D.C. and went on to become the first African-American to be elected to the Senate by popular vote. 

While the Senate had two black senators not long after the Civil War, it had been a policy up until the early 20th century for state legislators to hand-pick senators, rather than by a popular vote. 

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) mourned the loss of Brooke on Saturday, tweeting: “Deeply saddened by the loss of Senator Edward Brooke. He was a true trailblazer; those of us who followed cannot thank him enough. #RIP.”

Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), the wife of the former senator who beat Brooke in 1978, released a statement on Saturday.

“I was saddened to learn about the death of former U.S. Senator Edward Brooke. Paul and I always had great respect and admiration for him and for his work on behalf of the people of Massachusetts,” she said. “He made significant contributions to the social landscape of this country; was a champion of education and affordable housing; and his efforts led to expanded economic opportunities for American families. My thoughts and prayers go out to Senator Brooke’s family. He will be missed.”

An accomplished lawyer, Brooke joined a Washington firm after losing out on a third term to Democratic Rep. Paul Tsongas and served on several corporate boards. He also served on President Reagan’s Commission on Housing and the Senate’s Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, investigating treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

He had been influenced by parents loyal to the same Republican Party that drove the late President Lincoln and had a career that matched the title of the autobiography he released in 2007 called “Bridging the Divide.”

“A black man, a Republican, an Episcopalian, he was elected to the United States Senate in Massachusetts by an electorate that was overwhelmingly white, Democratic and Roman Catholic,” the New York Times wrote in a profile about the book. As of 2014, Brooke was still the only African-American to serve two terms in the Senate.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters, from his first marriage, Remi and Edwina. Brooke also he leaves a son from his second marriage, Edward IV. Brooke’s first wife died in 1994.

This post was updated at 5:25 p.m.


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