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 Massachusetts Attorney 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.

Early years

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;[1] 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.[2] After graduating in 1936, he enrolled in Howard University, where he first considered medicine, but ended up studying social studies and political science.[3] Brooke graduated in 1941, and enlisted in the United States Army immediately after the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.[4]

Brooke was commissioned as an officer, served five years in the Army, saw combat in Italy during 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."[5] His papers are stored at Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.

Political career

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.[6] Brooke made two more tries for office, including one for secretary of state, but lost both races.[7] 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 potential.[8]

Governor 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."[9] He parlayed his achievements there into a successful election as Attorney General of Massachusetts in 1962; he was the first elected African-American Attorney General of any state.[10] 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.[11] 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.[7] Brooke was portrayed in the 1968 film dramatizing the case by William Marshall.

U.S. Senator

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 "condemned both 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."[7] 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.[12] Brooke, who supported Michigan Governor George W. Romney[7] 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.[13] In 1967, Brooke was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.[14]

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.[15] 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 as the primary enforcer of the law.[15] President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law on April 11, one week after the assassination of 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.[citation needed] 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 their income.[15]

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.[citation needed]

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"[16] Then student government president 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 magazine.[16][17][18][19]

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 opinion.[13]

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.[15] The press discussed Brooke as a possible replacement for Spiro Agnew as Nixon's running mate in the 1972 presidential election.[20] While Nixon retained Agnew, Brooke was re-elected in 1972, defeating Democrat John J. Droney by a vote of 64%–35%.

Before the first year of his second term ended, Brooke became the first Republican to call on President Nixon to resign,[15] 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, Labor, 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.[21]

Senator 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.[citation needed]

In 1975, with the extension and expansion of the 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 and in the House–Senate Conference until his defeat.[citation needed] 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".[22]

In Massachusetts, Brooke's support among Catholics weakened due to his stance on abortion.[23] 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.[6][24][25]

Post-Senate life

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.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28] The HUD investigation ended with no charges being brought against Brooke.[29]

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.[30]

Edward Brooke is congratulated by President 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 the Boston Municipal Court, Boston Juvenile Court, Family Court, and Boston Housing Court, among others.[31]

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Edward Brooke on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[32]

In September 2002, he was diagnosed with breast cancer and assumed a national role in raising awareness of the disease among men.[33]

On June 23, 2004, President George W. Bush awarded Brooke the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[34] That same year he received the Jeremy Nicholson Negro Achievement Award, acknowledging his outstanding contributions to the African-American community.[35]

Two days after his 90th birthday, Brooke was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal on October 28, 2009.[10]

The first of Boston's Brooke Charter Schools was founded in 2002.[36]

On January 3, 2015, Brooke died at his home in Coral Gables, Florida, at the age of 95.[15][37][38][39]

He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 8, Site 5190-5-RH.[40]

Awards and honors

See also


  1. ^ The first African-American senator, Hiram Rhodes Revels, was appointed by the Mississippi state legislature to an unexpired term in 1870. 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.


  1. ^ Cutler, pp. 13–14.
  2. ^ Cutler, pp. 14–18.
  3. ^ Cutler, p. 20.
  4. ^ Cutler, p. 23.
  5. ^ Barlow, Rich (February 2015). "Remembering a Pioneering Politician". Bostonia. Boston University: 12. 
  6. ^ a b Jacobs, Sally. "The unfinished chapter" Boston Globe, March 5, 2000.
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Cutler, p. 63.
  9. ^ Cutler, pp. 65–67.
  10. ^ a b "Former senator awarded Congressional Gold Medal". CNN. October 28, 2009. Archived from the original on November 15, 2010. Retrieved October 28, 2009.  .
  11. ^ Cutler, pp. 104–105.
  12. ^ Giroux, Greg (January 4, 2015). "Edward Brooke Served in a Different Era of Senate Politics". Bloomberg News. Retrieved January 7, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Martin, Douglas (January 3, 2015). "Edward W. Brooke III, 95, Senate Pioneer, Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2015. 
  14. ^ NAACP Spingarn Medal Archived 2014-05-05 at WebCite
  15. ^ a b c d e f Feeney, Mark – Metro. "Edward W. Brooke, first African-American elected to the US Senate since Reconstruction, dies". The Boston Globe. January 4, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b The Choice 2016, FRONTLINE, PBS, 30:30–32:30 
  17. ^ Dedman, Bill (9 May 2007). "Reading Hillary Rodham's hidden thesis". MSNBC. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  18. ^ Rodham, Hillary D. (1969). Hillary D. Rodham's 1969 Student Commencement Speech (Speech). Wellesley College. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  19. ^ Dougherty (ed.), Biography: Hillary Clinton, 10:00–11:00, retrieved 1 July 2017 
  20. ^ "The Brooke Scenario". Time. December 13, 1971. Archived from the original on December 21, 2008. Retrieved December 24, 2010. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ "A Brand New Race for 2nd Place". Time. November 17, 1975. Archived from the original on July 16, 2010. Retrieved December 25, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Edward Brooke – obituary". Telegraph. January 4, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015. 
  24. ^ "/ Photo gallery". Boston.com. June 16, 1978. Retrieved March 12, 2010. 
  25. ^ United Press International, Galveston Daily News, Sen. Brooke Not To Face Prosecution For Perjury, August 2, 1978.
  26. ^ "The Black Social History". Sitting Bull.com. Retrieved January 3, 2015. 
  27. ^ "BROOKE, Edward William, III". house.gov. 
  28. ^ Aide Implicates Ex-Senator in H.U.D. Case, New York Times, November 22, 1992.
  29. ^ "Counsel Clears Ex-senator in HUD Case", Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, June 3, 1995.
  30. ^ Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity (2005). Alpha Phi Alpha Men: "A Century of Leadership (Video). Rubicon Productions. 
  31. ^ Dedication of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse Archived October 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., a news release from Boston University.
  32. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
  33. ^ 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. 
  34. ^ "Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients". United States Senate. Retrieved February 4, 2013. 
  35. ^ News, A. B. C. (February 1, 2013). "The 8 African-American Senators". 
  36. ^ "About Us". Brooke Charter Schools. Retrieved February 4, 2013. 
  37. ^ 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. 
  38. ^ "Edward W Brooke, first black man to win popular election to US Senate, dies". The Guardian. January 4, 2015. Retrieved January 4, 2015. 
  39. ^ Bellotti, Francis (January 5, 2015). "Edward Brooke — one of the last political giants". The Boston Globe – Opinion. Retrieved January 6, 2015. 
  40. ^ Edward Brooke at Find a Grave
  41. ^ Lorber, Janie (October 28, 2009). "Former Senator Scolds Lawmakers". New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 


External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Edward McCormack
Attorney General of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Ed Martin
Party political offices
Preceded by
Leverett Saltonstall
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
(Class 2)

1966, 1972, 1978
Succeeded by
Ray Shamie
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Leverett Saltonstall
United States Senator (Class 2) from Massachusetts
Served alongside: Ted Kennedy
Succeeded by
Paul Tsongas
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Harry F. Byrd Jr.
Oldest living United States Senator
July 30, 2013 – January 3, 2015
Succeeded by
John Glenn