In 1966, Edward Brooke III became the first African-American United States Senator elected by popular vote. Sen. Brooke died on Jan. 3 at 95.Brooke was born in Washington, D.C. on October 26, 1919. He entered Howard University, graduating in 1941. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Brooke entered the U.S. Army and fought in World War II. His service and time in combat later earned him the Bronze Star award.
After five years in the military, Brooke entered the Boston University School Of Law and remained in the state to hammer out his political career. Brooke’s first foray into politics was a failed House of Representatives bid in 1950.
Running in both the Democratic and Republican primaries, Brooke won on the Republican ticket, thus cementing his political affiliation for years to come.
Governor John Volpe hired Brooke for a series of jobs, which eventually led to his election as the nation’s first Black Attorney General. According to published accounts, President John F. Kennedy said it was the “biggest news in the country” despite it being the same day his brother Edward won a U.S. Senate seat.
As a liberal Republican who identified with centrist politics most of all, Brooke was able to cross party lines in order to govern accordingly. Brooke shunned political labels, focusing on housing discrimination, championing civil rights and challenging his party to match Democrats in creating social programs.
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