Edward Brooke
Official portrait of senator Edward brooke, dated around 1967 to 1979
Official portrait, c. 1967 – c. 1979
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1979
Preceded byLeverett Saltonstall
Succeeded byPaul Tsongas
35th Attorney General of Massachusetts
In office
January 3, 1963 – January 3, 1967
Preceded byEdward McCormack
Succeeded byEdward T. Martin
Personal details
Edward William Brooke III

(1919-10-26)October 26, 1919
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedJanuary 3, 2015(2015-01-03) (aged 95)
Coral Gables, Florida, U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
Remigia Ferrari-Scacco
(m. 1947; div. 1979)
Anne Fleming
(m. 1979)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1941–1946
US-O3 insignia.svg
Unit366th Infantry Regiment

Edward William Brooke III (October 26, 1919 – January 3, 2015) was an American politician of the Republican Party, who represented Massachusetts in the United States Senate from 1967 until 1979. Prior to serving in the senate, he served as the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1963 until 1967. Following his election in 1966, he became the first African American popularly elected to the United States Senate.[1][a]

Born to a middle-class black family, Brooke was raised in Washington, D.C.. He graduated from the Boston University School of Law in 1948, after serving in the United States Army during World War II. Beginning in 1950, he became involved in politics, when he ran for a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. After serving as chairman of the Finance Commission of Boston, Brooke was elected attorney general in 1962, becoming the first African-American to be elected attorney general of any state. He served as attorney general for four years, before running for senate in 1966. In the election, he defeated Democratic Governor Endicott Peabody in a landslide, and was seated on January 3, 1967.

In the Senate, Brooke aligned with the liberal faction in the Republican party. He co-wrote the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibited housing discrimination, and was re-elected to a second term in 1972, after defeating attorney John Droney. Brooke became a prominent critic of Republican President Richard Nixon, and was the first Senate Republican to call for Nixon's resignation in light of the Watergate scandal. In 1978, he ran for a third term, but was defeated by Democrat Paul Tsongas. After leaving the Senate, Brooke practiced law in Washington, D.C. and was affiliated with various businesses and nonprofit organizations. Brooke died on January 3, 2015, at his home in Coral Gables, Florida, at the age of 95.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4] After graduating in 1936, he enrolled in Howard University, where he first considered medicine, but ended up studying social studies and political science.[5] Brooke graduated in 1941, and enlisted in the United States Army immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.[6]

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."[7] 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.[8] Brooke made two more tries for office, including one for secretary of state, but lost both races.[9] 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.[10]

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."[11] He parlayed his achievements there into a successful election as Attorney General of Massachusetts in 1962; he was the first African-American to be elected attorney general of any state.[12] 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.[13] 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.[9] Brooke was portrayed in the 1968 film dramatizing the case by William Marshall.

U.S. Senate

Brooke at the 1968 Republican National Convention
Senator Edward Brooke in the U.S. Senate
Senator Edward Brooke in the U.S. Senate

First term (1967-1973)

Initial election

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 nonetheless gave Brooke "a 50-state constituency", the magazine wrote, "a power base that no other Senator can claim".[9]


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.[14] Brooke, who supported Michigan Governor George W. Romney[9] 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.[15] In 1967, Brooke was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.[16]

In 1967, Brooke went to Vietnam on a three-week trip as a fact-finding mission. During his first formal speech in the Senate following the trip, he reversed his previous position on Vietnam War that increased negotiations with the North Vietnamese rather than an escalation of the fighting were needed. He began to favor President Johnson's "patient" approach to Vietnam as he had been convinced that "the enemy is not disposed to participate in any meaningful negotiations".[17]

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.[18] 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.[18] 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.[18] Additionally, Brooke voted in favor of the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court.[19]

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.[20]

In 1969, Brooke spoke at Wellesley College's commencement against "coercive protest" and was understood by some students as calling protesters "elite ne'er-do-wells"[21] 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.[21][22][23][24]

On June 9, 1969, Brooke voted in favor of President Nixon's nomination of Warren E. Burger as Chief Justice of the United States following the retirement of Earl Warren.[25] Brooke was a leader of the bipartisan coalition that defeated the Senate confirmation of Clement Haynsworth, President Nixon's nominee to the Supreme Court on November 21, 1969.[26] A few months later, he again organized sufficient Republican support to defeat Nixon's third Supreme Court nominee Harrold Carswell on April 8, 1970.[27] The following month, Nixon nominee Harry Blackmun (who later wrote the Roe v. Wade opinion) was confirmed on May 12, 1970 with Brooke voting in favor.[15][28] On December 6, 1971, Brooke voted in favor of Nixon's nomination of Lewis F. Powell Jr.,[29] while on December 10, Brooke voted against Nixon's nomination of William Rehnquist as Associate Justice.[30] On December 17, 1975, Brooke voted in favor of President Gerald Ford's nomination of John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court.[31]

Second term (1973-1979)

Relations with the White House and 1972 election

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.[18] The press discussed Brooke as a possible replacement for Spiro Agnew as Nixon's running mate in the 1972 presidential election.[32] 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,[18] 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.[33]

Senator Edward Brooke meeting with President Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office shortly after taking office in the Senate in 1967.
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 C. 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".[34]

In Massachusetts, Brooke's support among Catholics weakened due to his stance on abortion.[35] During the 1978 re-election campaign, the state's bishops spoke in opposition to his leading role.

Brooke had an affair with broadcast journalist Barbara Walters in the 1970s. Walters stated that the affair was ended to protect their careers from scandal.[36]

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 1978 reelection campaign, and he lost to Paul Tsongas.[8][37][38]

Post-Senate life

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.
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.

After leaving the Senate, Brooke practiced law in Washington, D.C., first as a partner at the Washington firm of O'Connor & Hannan; later of counsel to Csaplar & Bok in Boston.[39] He also served as chairman of the board of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.[40] In 1984 he was selected as chairman of the Boston Bank of Commerce,[39] and one year later he was named to the board of directors of Grumman.[41]

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.[42] The HUD investigation ended with no charges being brought against Brooke.[43]

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.[44]

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.[45] In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Edward Brooke on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[46]

In September 2002, he was diagnosed with breast cancer and assumed a national role in raising awareness of the disease among men.[47] On June 23, 2004, President George W. Bush awarded Brooke the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[48] That same year he received the Jeremy Nicholson Negro Achievement Award, acknowledging his outstanding contributions to the African-American community.[49]

During the 2008 presidential election, Brooke indicated in a WBUR-FM interview that he favored Democratic nominee Barack Obama.[50] On October 28, 2009, two days after his 90th birthday, Brooke was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal.[12]

On January 3, 2015, Brooke died at his home in Coral Gables, Florida, at the age of 95.[18][51][52][53] He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[54] Brooke was the oldest living U.S. senator until his death in January 2015, and the last living U.S. senator born in the 1910s.

Political positions

Edward Brooke was a self-described moderate or liberal Republican, generally referred to as Rockefeller Republicans. On social issues he was a liberal who supported civil rights, women's rights, and civil liberties. On economic issues he was fiscally conservative, but was pragmatic about it; he still allowed that "There are things that people can't do for themselves and therefore government must do it for them". He was against huge government or bureaucracy.[55]

Awards and honors

See also

Explanatory notes

  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.[2]



  1. ^ "U.S. Senate: Edward Brooke: A Featured Biography". www.senate.gov. Retrieved January 23, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Martin, Douglas (January 3, 2015). "Edward W. Brooke III, 95, Senate Pioneer, Is Dead". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2022.
  3. ^ Cutler, pp. 13–14.
  4. ^ Cutler, pp. 14–18.
  5. ^ Cutler, p. 20.
  6. ^ Cutler, p. 23.
  7. ^ Barlow, Rich (February 2015). "Remembering a Pioneering Politician". Bostonia. Boston University: 12.
  8. ^ a b Jacobs, Sally. "The unfinished chapter" Boston Globe, March 5, 2000.
  9. ^ a b c d "The Senate: An Individual Who Happens To Be a Negro". Time. Vol. 89, no. 7. February 17, 1967. Retrieved December 24, 2010.
  10. ^ Cutler, p. 63.
  11. ^ Cutler, pp. 65–67.
  12. ^ a b "Former senator awarded Congressional Gold Medal". CNN. October 28, 2009. Archived from the original on March 24, 2010. Retrieved October 28, 2009. .
  13. ^ Cutler, pp. 104–105.
  14. ^ Giroux, Greg (January 4, 2015). "Edward Brooke Served in a Different Era of Senate Politics". Bloomberg News. Retrieved January 7, 2015.
  15. ^ a b Martin, Douglas (January 3, 2015). "Edward W. Brooke III, 95, Senate Pioneer, Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2015.
  16. ^ NAACP Spingarn Medal Archived 2014-08-02 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "BROOKE, Edward William, III". History, Art & Archives. United States House of Representatives. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Feeney, Mark – Metro (January 4, 2015). "Edward W. Brooke, first African-American elected to the US Senate since Reconstruction, dies". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  19. ^ "Senate – August 30, 1967" (PDF). Congressional Record. U.S. Government Printing Office. 113 (18): 24656. Retrieved February 5, 2022.
  20. ^ Sokol, Jason (January 1, 2021). "The Color-Blind Commonwealth? Edward Brooke's Senate Campaign in 1966". Historical Journal of Massachusetts. 49 (1): 20–42.
  21. ^ a b Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: The Choice 2016, FRONTLINE, PBS, 30:30–32:30
  22. ^ Dedman, Bill (May 9, 2007). "Reading Hillary Rodham's hidden thesis". MSNBC. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  23. ^ Rodham, Hillary D. (1969). Hillary D. Rodham's 1969 Student Commencement Speech (Speech). Wellesley College. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  24. ^ Dougherty (ed.), Biography: Hillary Clinton, 10:00–11:00, archived from the original on May 23, 2016, retrieved July 1, 2017
  25. ^ "Senate – June 9, 1969" (PDF). Congressional Record. U.S. Government Printing Office. 115 (11): 15195–15196. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  26. ^ "Senate – November 21, 1969" (PDF). Congressional Record. U.S. Government Printing Office. 115 (26): 35396. Retrieved February 6, 2022.
  27. ^ "Senate – April 8, 1970" (PDF). Congressional Record. U.S. Government Printing Office. 116 (8): 10769. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  28. ^ "Senate – May 12, 1970" (PDF). Congressional Record. U.S. Government Printing Office. 116 (11): 15117. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  29. ^ "Senate – December 6, 1971" (PDF). Congressional Record. U.S. Government Printing Office. 117 (34): 44857. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  30. ^ "Senate – December 10, 1971" (PDF). Congressional Record. U.S. Government Printing Office. 117 (35): 46197. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  31. ^ "Senate – December 17, 1975" (PDF). Congressional Record. U.S. Government Printing Office. 121 (32): 41128. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  32. ^ "The Brooke Scenario". Time. December 13, 1971. Archived from the original on December 21, 2008. Retrieved December 24, 2010.
  33. ^ Williams, Christie (October 27, 2009). "Edward Brooke to Be Honored". RollCall.com. Retrieved December 7, 2016. And he introduced and passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which leveled the playing field for women seeking access to credit and loans.
  34. ^ "A Brand New Race for 2nd Place". Time. November 17, 1975. Archived from the original on July 16, 2010. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
  35. ^ "Edward Brooke – obituary". Telegraph. January 4, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  36. ^ "Barbara Walters: I had affair with U.S. senator". CNN. Associated Press (AP). May 1, 2008. Archived from the original on May 2, 2008.
  37. ^ "/ Photo gallery". Boston.com. June 16, 1978. Retrieved March 12, 2010.
  38. ^ United Press International, Galveston Daily News, Sen. Brooke Not To Face Prosecution For Perjury, August 2, 1978.
  39. ^ a b "Business People: Boston Bank Names Brooke Chairman". The New York Times. November 26, 1984. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  40. ^ "The Black Social History". Sitting Bull.com. Retrieved January 3, 2015.
  41. ^ "BROOKE, Edward William, III". house.gov.
  42. ^ Aide Implicates Ex-Senator in H.U.D. Case, New York Times, November 22, 1992.
  43. ^ "Counsel Clears Ex-senator in HUD Case" Archived January 4, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, June 3, 1995.
  44. ^ Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity (2005). Alpha Phi Alpha Men: "A Century of Leadership (Video). Rubicon Productions.
  45. ^ Dedication of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse Archived October 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, a news release from Boston University.
  46. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
  47. ^ 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.
  48. ^ "Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients". United States Senate. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  49. ^ "The 8 African-American Senators". ABC News. February 1, 2013.
  50. ^ "Sen. Brooke Favors Obama". www.wbur.org. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
  51. ^ 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.
  52. ^ "Edward W Brooke, first black man to win popular election to US Senate, dies". The Guardian. January 4, 2015. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  53. ^ Bellotti, Francis (January 5, 2015). "Edward Brooke — one of the last political giants". The Boston Globe – Opinion. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  54. ^ Barack Obama
  55. ^ Edward Brooke: Why Republican
  56. ^ Lorber, Janie (October 28, 2009). "Former Senator Scolds Lawmakers". New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2014.

General and cited sources

Legal offices Preceded byEdward McCormack Attorney General of Massachusetts 1963–1967 Succeeded byEd MartinActing Party political offices Preceded byLeverett Saltonstall Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts(Class 2) 1966, 1972, 1978 Succeeded byRay Shamie U.S. Senate Preceded byLeverett Saltonstall United States Senator (Class 2) from Massachusetts 1967–1979 Served alongside: Ted Kennedy Succeeded byPaul Tsongas Honorary titles Preceded byHarry F. Byrd Jr. Oldest living United States senator (current or former) July 30, 2013 – January 3, 2015 Succeeded byJohn Glenn