Edward W. Brooke, First Black Senator Since Reconstruction, Dead at 95

There have only been six African-Americans senators since Brooke.

Former Massachusetts Senator Edward W. Brooke, III was the first African American to be elected by popular vote, and the first to be seated since Reconstruction.

(Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Edward W. Brooke, the first African-American elected to the Senate since Reconstruction, died Saturday, multiple outlets are reporting. He was 95.

Family spokesman Ralph Neas and Massachusetts GOP chairwoman Kirsten Hughes confirmed the news to the Washington Post and Boston Globe, respectively. Neas told the Associated Press that Brooke died of natural causes in his Coral Gables, Fla., home. 

The Massachusetts Republican was elected to the Senate in 1966, after serving as the state’s attorney general. He served until 1979.

In a statement, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick called Brooke a friend, a mentor, and “a superb example of selfless service,” according to WCVB. “He carried the added honor and burden of being 'the first,’ and did so with distinction and grace,” the Democrat said. “I have lost a friend and mentor. America has lost a superb example of selfless service. Diane and I extend our deepest condolences to the Brooke family.” 

Senator Tim Scott, a black Republican representing South Carolina, tweeted:

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren also tweeted her condolences:

Brooke was born in Washington, D.C., and attended Howard University. He went on to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II and earn his law degree from Boston University.

The former senator received several honors, including the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in 1967, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009, after President Barack Obama was sworn into office. The president once called Brooke “a man who's spent his life breaking barriers and bridging divides across this country.” Shortly after Obama was elected, Brooke told the AP he was “thankful to God” that he lived to see the election of the first black president. 

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