January 05, 2015 - 12:24 pm

Edward Brooke, a LeDroit Park native and US Senator, has died

On Saturday, Edward Brooke, a LeDroit Park native and the first popularly elected African-American in the U.S. Senate died at age 95.  Mr. Brooke grew up at 1938 3rd Street (pictured below) in LeDroit Park, attended Dunbar High School, and graduated from Howard University in 1941.

After serving in World War II, in which he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal, he moved to Boston and graduated from Boston University Law School.  He practiced law in Boston and ran for office several times, usually as a Republican.  The idea of a black New England Republican seems like an impossibility today, but the party was more ideologically diverse in that era and Mr. Brooke was part of its now-extinct liberal wing.

Mr. Brooke was elected Attorney General of Massachusetts in 1962 and the state’s voters elected him to represent them in the U.S. Senate in 1966.  Mr. Brooke was the first African-American popularly elected to the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Senators were typically appointed by state governments until the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913.  During Reconstruction the Mississippi state government was under Federal control, meaning those in power were Northern newcomers or abolitionist Southerners with liberal views on race relations.  Under this short-lived political alignment, the Mississippi legislature appointed two black Republicans to the U.S. Senate, but their terms were short.  Pressure from the former Confederate establishment and political intimidation from white supremacist groups ensured that when the Mississippi government was released from Federal control, new legislators quickly put Jim Crow laws into place.  No African-American entered the Senate again until Mr. Brooke in 1966.

Mr. Brooke’s biggest policy achievements include co-sponsoring the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the 1969 Housing Act’s so-called Brooke Amendment, which limited public housing rent to 25% of the tenant’s income.

In 2004, Pres. Bush awarded Mr. Brooke the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2009 Congress awarded Mr. Brooke a Congressional Gold Medal.

He died on Saturday at age 95 at his home in Coral Gables, Florida.  Below is a photo of his childhood home in LeDroit Park.

Edward Brooke House

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