Edward William Brooke III (October 26, 1919 – January 3, 2015) was
an American Republican politician. In 1966, he became the first
African American popularly elected to the
United States Senate.[note
1] He represented
Massachusetts in the Senate from 1967 to 1979.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Brooke graduated from the Boston
University School of Law after serving in the
United States Army
during World War II. After serving as chairman of the Finance
Commission of Boston, Brooke won election as
General in 1962. In 1966, he defeated Democratic Governor Endicott
Peabody in a landslide to win election to the Senate.
In the Senate, Brooke aligned with the liberal faction of Republicans.
He co-wrote the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibits housing
discrimination. Brooke became a prominent critic of President Richard
Nixon and was the first Senate Republican to call for Nixon's
resignation in light of the
Watergate scandal. Brooke won re-election
in 1972, but he was defeated by
Paul Tsongas in 1978. After leaving
the Senate, Brooke practiced law in
Washington, D.C. and was
affiliated with various businesses and non-profits.
1 Early years
2 Political career
3 U.S. Senator
4 Post-Senate life
5 Awards and honors
6 See also
10 External links
Edward William Brooke III was born on October 26, 1919, in Washington,
D.C., to Edward William Brooke, Jr. and Helen (Seldon) Brooke. He was
the second of three children; He was raised in a middle-class
section of the city, and attended Dunbar High School, then one of the
most prestigious academic high schools for African Americans. After
graduating in 1936, he enrolled in Howard University, where he first
considered medicine, but ended up studying social studies and
political science. Brooke graduated in 1941, and enlisted in the
United States Army immediately after the Japanese Attack on Pearl
Brooke was commissioned as an officer, served five years in the Army,
saw combat in
World War II
World War II as a member of the segregated
366th Infantry Regiment, and earned a Bronze Star Medal. In Italy
Brooke met his future wife Remigia Ferrari-Scacco, with whom he had
two daughters, Remi and Edwina. Following his discharge, Brooke
graduated from the
Boston University School of Law in 1948. "I never
studied much at Howard," he reflected, "but at
Boston University, I
didn't do much else but study." His papers are stored at Boston
University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.
In 1950 he ran for a seat in the
Massachusetts House of
Representatives in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.
Brooke won the Republican nomination, but lost the general
election. Brooke made two more tries for office, including one for
secretary of state, but lost both races. The loss in the
secretary's race (to Kevin White, a future mayor of Boston) was
particularly close. Republican leaders took notice of Brooke's
John Volpe sought to reward Brooke for his effort, and
offered him a number of jobs, most judicial in nature. Seeking a
position with a higher political profile, Brooke eventually accepted
the position of chairman of the Finance Commission of Boston, where he
investigated financial irregularities and uncovered evidence of
corruption in city affairs. He was described in the press as having
"the tenacity of a terrier", and it was reported that he "restore[d]
to vigorous life an agency which many had thought moribund." He
parlayed his achievements there into a successful election as Attorney
Massachusetts in 1962; he was the first elected
African-American Attorney General of any state. In this position,
Brooke gained a reputation as a vigorous prosecutor of organized crime
and corruption, securing convictions against a number of members of
the Furcolo administration; an indictment against Furcolo was
dismissed due to lack of evidence. He also coordinated with local
police departments on the
Boston strangler case, although the press
mocked him for permitting an alleged psychic to participate in the
investigation. Brooke was portrayed in the 1968 film dramatizing
the case by William Marshall.
Brooke at the 1968 Republican National Convention
In 1966, Brooke defeated former Governor
Endicott Peabody with
1,213,473 votes to 744,761, and served as a
United States Senator for
two terms, from January 3, 1967, to January 3, 1979. The black vote
had, Time wrote, "no measurable bearing" on the election as less than
3% of the state's population was black, and Peabody also supported
civil rights for blacks. Brooke said, "I do not intend to be a
national leader of the Negro people", and the magazine said that he
Stokely Carmichael and Georgia's Lester Maddox" as
extremists; his historic election gave Brooke "a 50-state
constituency, a power base that no other Senator can claim." A
member of the moderate-to-liberal Northeastern wing of the Republican
Party, Brooke organized the Senate's "Wednesday Club" of progressive
Republicans who met for Wednesday lunches and strategy
discussions. Brooke, who supported
Michigan Governor George W.
Romney and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller's bids for the 1968
GOP presidential nomination against Richard Nixon's, often differed
with President Nixon on matters of social policy and civil rights.
In 1967, Brooke was awarded the
Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.
By his second year in the Senate, Brooke had taken his place as a
leading advocate against discrimination in housing and on behalf of
affordable housing. With Walter Mondale, a Minnesota Democrat and
fellow member of the Senate Banking Committee, he co-authored the 1968
Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing. The Act
also created HUD's
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity as the
primary enforcer of the law. President Johnson signed the Fair
Housing Act into law on April 11, one week after the assassination of
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Dissatisfied with the weakened enforcement
provisions that emerged from the legislative process, Brooke
repeatedly proposed stronger provisions during his Senate
career. In 1969, Congress enacted the "Brooke
Amendment" to the federal publicly assisted housing program which
limited the tenants' out-of-pocket rent expenditure to 25 percent of
During the Nixon presidency, Brooke opposed repeated Administration
attempts to close down the
Job Corps and the Office of Economic
Opportunity and to weaken the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission—all foundational elements of President Lyndon Johnson's
Great Society.
In 1969, Brooke spoke at a Wellesley College's commencement against
"coercive protest" and was understood by some students as calling
protesters "elite ne'er-do-wells" Then student government
Hillary Rodham departed from her planned speech to rebut
Brooke's words, affirming the "indispensable task of criticizing and
constructive protest," for which she was featured in Life
Brooke was a leader of the bipartisan coalition that defeated the
Senate confirmation of Clement Haynsworth, the President's nominee to
the Supreme Court. A few months later, he again organized sufficient
Republican support to defeat Nixon's second Supreme Court nominee
Harrold Carswell. Nixon next nominated Harry A. Blackmun, who was
confirmed and later wrote the
Roe v. Wade
Roe v. Wade opinion.
Despite Brooke's disagreements with Nixon, the president reportedly
respected the senator's abilities; after Nixon's election he had
offered to make Brooke a member of his cabinet, or appoint him as
ambassador to the UN. The press discussed Brooke as a possible
Spiro Agnew as Nixon's running mate in the 1972
presidential election. While Nixon retained Agnew, Brooke was
re-elected in 1972, defeating Democrat John J. Droney by a vote of
Before the first year of his second term ended, Brooke became the
first Republican to call on President Nixon to resign, on November
4, 1973, shortly after the Watergate-related "Saturday night
massacre". He had risen to become the ranking Republican on the Senate
Banking Committee and on two powerful Appropriations subcommittees,
Health and Human Services
Health and Human Services (HHS) and Foreign Operations. From
these positions, Brooke defended and strengthened the programs he
supported; for example, he was a leader in enactment of the Equal
Credit Opportunity Act, which ensured married women the right to
establish credit in their own name.
Edward Brooke meeting with President
Lyndon Johnson in the
Oval Office shortly after taking office in the Senate in 1967.
In 1974, with Indiana senator Birch Bayh, Brooke led the fight to
retain Title IX, a 1972 amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965,
which guarantees equal educational opportunity (including athletic
participation) to girls and women.
In 1975, with the extension and expansion of the
Voting Rights Act
Voting Rights Act at
stake, Brooke faced senator
John Stennis (D-Mississippi) in "extended
debate" and won the Senate's support for the extension. In 1976, he
also took on the role of supporter of wide-scale, legalized abortion.
The Appropriations bill for HHS became the battleground over this
issue because it funds Medicaid. The Anti-abortion movement fought,
eventually successfully, to prohibit funding for abortions of
low-income women insured by Medicaid. Brooke led the fight against
restrictions in the
Senate Appropriations Committee
Senate Appropriations Committee and in the
House–Senate Conference until his defeat. The press
again speculated on his possible candidacy for the Vice Presidency as
Gerald Ford's running mate in 1976, with Time calling him an "able
legislator and a staunch party loyalist".
In Massachusetts, Brooke's support among Catholics weakened due to his
stance on abortion. During the 1978 re-election campaign, the
state's bishops spoke in opposition to his leading role.
Brooke went through a divorce late in his second term. His finances
were investigated by the Senate, and John Kerry, then a prosecutor in
Middlesex County, announced an investigation into statements Brooke
made in the divorce case. Prosecutors eventually determined that
Brooke had made false statements about his finances during the
divorce, and that they were pertinent, but not material enough to have
affected the outcome. Brooke was not charged with a crime, but the
negative publicity cost him some support in his reelection campaign,
and he lost to Paul Tsongas.
After leaving the Senate, Brooke practiced law in Washington, D.C.,
partner O'Connor & Hannan; of counsel, Csaplar & Bok, Boston.
He also served as chairman of the board of the National Low Income
Housing Coalition. In 1984 he was selected as chairman of the
Boston Bank of Commerce, and one year later he was named to the board
of directors of Grumman.
In 1992, a Brooke assistant stated in a plea agreement as part of an
investigation into corruption at the Department of Housing and Urban
Development that Brooke had falsely answered questions about whether
he or the assistant had tried to improperly influence HUD officials on
behalf of housing and real estate developers who had paid large
consulting fees to Brooke. The HUD investigation ended with no
charges being brought against Brooke.
In 1996, Brooke became the first chairman of the World Policy Council,
a think tank of Alpha Phi Alpha, an African-American fraternity. The
Council's purpose is to expand the fraternity's involvement in
politics, and social and current policy to encompass international
concerns. In 2006 Brooke served as the council's chairman emeritus and
was honorary chairman at the Centennial Convention of Alpha Phi Alpha
held in Washington, D.C.
Edward Brooke is congratulated by President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush at the
Ceremony for the 2004 Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom,
The East Room of the White House.
On June 20, 2000, a newly constructed
Boston courthouse was dedicated
in his honor. The Edward W. Brooke Courthouse is part of the
Massachusetts Trial Court system, and houses the Central Division of
Boston Municipal Court,
Boston Juvenile Court, Family Court, and
Boston Housing Court, among others.
In 2002, scholar
Molefi Kete Asante
Molefi Kete Asante listed
Edward Brooke on his list
of 100 Greatest African Americans.
In September 2002, he was diagnosed with breast cancer and assumed a
national role in raising awareness of the disease among men.
On June 23, 2004, President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush awarded Brooke the
Presidential Medal of Freedom. That same year he received the
Jeremy Nicholson Negro Achievement Award, acknowledging his
outstanding contributions to the African-American community.
Two days after his 90th birthday, Brooke was presented with the
Congressional Gold Medal
Congressional Gold Medal on October 28, 2009.
The first of Boston's Brooke Charter Schools was founded in 2002.
On January 3, 2015, Brooke died at his home in Coral Gables, Florida,
at the age of 95.
He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 8, Site
Awards and honors
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Congressional Gold Medal. At his 2009 Congressional Gold Medal
Acceptance speech, Brooke scolded policymakers for excessive partisan
Bronze Star Medal
United States Army portal
World War II
World War II portal
Washington, D.C. portal
List of African-American firsts
List of African-American Republicans
List of African-American
United States Senators
^ The first African-American senator, Hiram Rhodes Revels, was
appointed by the Mississippi state legislature to an unexpired term in
Blanche Bruce was the first African American elected to the
Senate, elected by the Mississippi state legislature to a full term in
1874. Prior to the 17th Amendment in 1913, U.S. Senators were elected
by state legislatures.
^ Cutler, pp. 13–14.
^ Cutler, pp. 14–18.
^ Cutler, p. 20.
^ Cutler, p. 23.
^ Barlow, Rich (February 2015). "Remembering a Pioneering Politician".
Boston University: 12.
^ a b Jacobs, Sally. "The unfinished chapter"
Boston Globe, March 5,
^ a b c d "The Senate: An Individual Who Happens To Be a Negro". Time.
89 (7). February 17, 1967. Archived from the original on February 20,
2008. Retrieved December 24, 2010.
^ Cutler, p. 63.
^ Cutler, pp. 65–67.
^ a b "Former senator awarded Congressional Gold Medal". CNN. October
28, 2009. Archived from the original on November 15, 2010. Retrieved
October 28, 2009. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown
^ Cutler, pp. 104–105.
^ Giroux, Greg (January 4, 2015). "
Edward Brooke Served in a Different
Era of Senate Politics". Bloomberg News. Retrieved January 7,
^ a b Martin, Douglas (January 3, 2015). "Edward W. Brooke III, 95,
Senate Pioneer, Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved January 7,
Spingarn Medal Archived 2014-05-05 at WebCite
^ a b c d e f Feeney, Mark – Metro. "Edward W. Brooke, first
African-American elected to the US Senate since Reconstruction, dies".
Boston Globe. January 4, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
^ a b The Choice 2016, FRONTLINE, PBS, 30:30–32:30
^ Dedman, Bill (9 May 2007). "Reading Hillary Rodham's hidden thesis".
MSNBC. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
^ Rodham, Hillary D. (1969). Hillary D. Rodham's 1969 Student
Commencement Speech (Speech). Wellesley College. Retrieved 1 July
^ Dougherty (ed.), Biography: Hillary Clinton, 10:00–11:00,
retrieved 1 July 2017
^ "The Brooke Scenario". Time. December 13, 1971. Archived from the
original on December 21, 2008. Retrieved December 24, 2010.
^ Williams, Christie (27 October 2009). "
Edward Brooke to Be Honored".
RollCall.com. Retrieved 7 December 2016. And he introduced and passed
the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which leveled the playing field for
women seeking access to credit and loans.
^ "A Brand New Race for 2nd Place". Time. November 17, 1975. Archived
from the original on July 16, 2010. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
Edward Brooke – obituary". Telegraph. January 4, 2015. Retrieved
January 6, 2015.
^ "/ Photo gallery". Boston.com. June 16, 1978. Retrieved March 12,
^ United Press International, Galveston Daily News, Sen. Brooke Not To
Face Prosecution For Perjury, August 2, 1978.
^ "The Black Social History". Sitting Bull.com. Retrieved January 3,
^ "BROOKE, Edward William, III". house.gov.
^ Aide Implicates Ex-Senator in H.U.D. Case, New York Times, November
^ "Counsel Clears Ex-senator in HUD Case", Fort Lauderdale
Sun-Sentinel, June 3, 1995.
Alpha Phi Alpha
Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity (2005).
Alpha Phi Alpha
Alpha Phi Alpha Men: "A Century
of Leadership (Video). Rubicon Productions.
^ Dedication of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse Archived October 21,
2012, at the Wayback Machine., a news release from
^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A
Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books.
^ Clementson, Lynette (June 10, 2003). "Surprise Role for Ex-Senator:
Male Breast Cancer Patient". New York Times. Archived from the
original on June 4, 2008.
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients".
United States Senate.
Retrieved February 4, 2013.
^ News, A. B. C. (February 1, 2013). "The 8 African-American
^ "About Us". Brooke Charter Schools. Retrieved February 4,
^ a b c Timothy W. Smith (January 3, 2015). "Edward W. Brooke, first
African American popularly elected to U.S. Senate, dies at 95".
Washington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
^ "Edward W Brooke, first black man to win popular election to US
Senate, dies". The Guardian. January 4, 2015. Retrieved January 4,
^ Bellotti, Francis (January 5, 2015). "
Edward Brooke — one of the
last political giants". The
Boston Globe – Opinion. Retrieved
January 6, 2015.
Edward Brooke at Find a Grave
^ Lorber, Janie (October 28, 2009). "Former Senator Scolds Lawmakers".
New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2014.
Becker, John F.; Heaton, Jr., Eugene E. (Autumn 1967). "The Election
of Senator Edward W. Brooke". Public Opinion Quarterly. 31 (3):
Edward Brooke (2006), Bridging The Divide: My Life. Rutgers University
Press. ISBN 0-8135-3905-6.
Edward Brooke (1966), The Challenge of Change: Crisis in our Two-Party
System. Little, Brown, Boston.
John Henry Cutler(1972), Ed Brooke: Biography of a Senator.
Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis.
Judson L. Jeffries, U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke and Governor L.
Douglas Wilder Tell Political Scientists How Blacks Can Win
High-Profile Statewide Office, American Political Science Association,
Timothy N. Thurber, Virginia Commonwealth University, "Goldwaterism
Triumphant?: Race and the Debate Among Republicans over the Direction
of the GOP, 1964–1968." Paper presented at the 2006 Conference of
the Historical Society, Chapel Hill, NC.
Barbara Walters (2008), Audition: A Memoir. Random House.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Edward Brooke.
United States Congress. "
Edward Brooke (id: B000871)". Biographical
Directory of the
United States Congress.
Edward Brooke's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary
Edward W. Brooke Charter School A public charter school founded in
Senator Brooke's honor, dedicated to building great teachers and
closing the achievement gap.
Edward Brooke through the years – Pictures". The
Retrieved January 6, 2015.
Appearances on C-SPAN
Attorney General of Massachusetts
Party political offices
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
1966, 1972, 1978
United States Senator (Class 2) from Massachusetts
Served alongside: Ted Kennedy
Harry F. Byrd Jr.
United States Senator
July 30, 2013 – January 3, 2015
United States Senators from Massachusetts
ISNI: 0000 0001 1489 5587
US Congress: B000871