R.I.P. Edward Brooke, 1st Black Senator Elected by Popular Vote

Edward William Brooke III, the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote and the first Republican senator to call for the resignation of President Nixon over the Watergate scandal, died Saturday at his home in Coral Gables, Fla. He was 95.

He died from natural causes, said his former legislative aid, Ralph Neas.

In 1966, Brooke ran for the Senate from Massachusetts and became the first black elected to serve in the upper chamber by popular vote, and the first to be sworn in as a senator since Hiram Revels and Blanche Kelso Bruce were sent to Washington during the post Civil War Reconstruction-era by a “carpetbag” Mississippi Legislature.

Upon his arrival in Washington, Brooke automatically achieved a number of social firsts, according to his memoirs, integrating both the Senate swimming pool and the Senate barber shop.

In winning election, Brooke joined a small band of liberal Republicans in the Senate during an era of moderation, when centrist voices like Jacob Javits of New York, Charles Percy of Illinois and Mark Hatfield of Oregon influenced political debate. Brooke supported housing and other anti-poverty programs, advocated for a stronger Social Security system and for an increased minimum wage, and promoted commuter rail and mass transit systems.

He also bedeviled the Nixon White House – criticizing the administration for adopting a cynical “Southern strategy” of wooing Southern whites by not enforcing civil rights laws, sponsoring a resolution calling for an end to U.S. involvement in Vietnam and opposing three of the president’s conservative nominees to the Supreme Court.

article by Johanna Neuman via latimes.com

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