Former Sen. Edward Brooke (R-Mass.), who ended an 85-year absence of African-American senators, died on Saturday at age 95, according to Kirsten Hughes, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party.
A former aide, Ralph Neas, says Brooke died of natural causes at his Coral Gables, Fla., home.
Brooke served in the Senate from 1967 to 1979 and, before that, he served as the Massachusetts attorney general.
He was born and raised in a segregated Washington D.C. and went on to become the first African-American to be elected to the Senate by popular vote.
While the Senate had two black senators not long after the Civil War, it had been a policy up until the early 20th century for state legislators to hand-pick senators, rather than by a popular vote.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) mourned the loss of Brooke on Saturday, tweeting: “Deeply saddened by the loss of Senator Edward Brooke. He was a true trailblazer; those of us who followed cannot thank him enough. #RIP.”
Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), the wife of the former senator who beat Brooke in 1978, released a statement on Saturday.
“I was saddened to learn about the death of former U.S. Senator Edward Brooke. Paul and I always had great respect and admiration for him and for his work on behalf of the people of Massachusetts,” she said. “He made significant contributions to the social landscape of this country; was a champion of education and affordable housing; and his efforts led to expanded economic opportunities for American families. My thoughts and prayers go out to Senator Brooke’s family. He will be missed.”
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SOURCE: The Hill – Megan R. Wilson