Former Massachusetts Republican Senator Edward Brooke has passed away at the age of 95. A cause of death was not released, but he was diagnosed with breast cancer a little over a decade ago.
When Brooke was elected to the Senate in 1966, he would become the first African-American to serve that body since Reconstruction and the first to be popularly elected. Despite being the only state to vote against Richard Nixon in 1972, Massachusetts re-elected Brooke easily. However, Brooke was defeated by Democrat Congressman Paul Tsongas in 1978. Nevertheless, Brooke remains the only African-American to have been re-elected to the Senate although Tim Scott of South Carolina has a good chance of replicating that feat in 2018.
Prior to his service in the Senate, Brooke served two terms as Massachusetts Attorney General, also making him the first African-American elected to that position on a state level. Brooke nearly became Massachusetts Secretary of State, but narrowly lost to future Boston Mayor Kevin White.
Brooke was considered a liberal Republican who supported Michigan Governor George Romney’s bid for the GOP nomination in 1968. When Romney dropped out of the race, Brooked backed New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Brooke was not close to President Nixon although Nixon did offer Brooke several cabinet positions and even considered naming him as his running mate in 1972. Of course, Nixon stuck with Agnew and by the following year Brooke became the first Republican Senator to call on Nixon to resign.
In 2004, President Bush bestowed Brooke with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
Like many young men, Brooke enlisted into the military following Pearl Harbor. He served in combat duty in Italy and would earn the Bronze Star.