Did you know … Edward Brooke III?

Black History month

Edward Brooke III

Edward Brooke III (October 26, 1919 – January 3, 2015) was an African American politician and war hero. He was born in Washington, D.C. to Edward and Helen Brooke. His father was an attorney reviewer for the Veterans Administration. The middle-class family resided mostly in black neighborhoods, but for a time lived in a white area so rigidly segregated that blacks were permitted to pass through only if they had a note from a white person.

Edward let the Jim Crow discrimination of his youth slide off his back. He’s quoted as saying, “I was a happy child. It might make a better story if some white person kicked me or yelled, ‘Nigger!’ but it didn’t happen.” Raised in a middle-class neighborhood, he attended Dunbar HS, then Howard University, studying political science. He graduated in 1941 as WW2 began, and joined the army. Brooke was commissioned as an officer, served five years in the Army, saw combat in Italy. During World War II as a member of the segregated 366th Infantry regiment, he earned a Bronze Star, the third-highest military honor. The 366th was later attached to the 92nd, an inferior white division, to bolster its performance.

After the war, Edward enrolled in Boston University Law school, graduating in 1948. He ran unsuccessfully for the Massachusetts State Assembly in 1950 but was appointed to the state’s finance commission, ferreting out fraud and malfeasance in state government. This led to his election as the first African-American Attorney General of any state. He participated in the prosecution and investigation of the controversial so-called Boston Strangler case.

In 1966, Brooke defeated former Massachusetts Governor Peabody for the United States Senate. His voter base was not primarily black, but rather a mixture, as black people only made up three percent of the population at the time. He served from January 3, 1967, to January 3, 1979. Though a Republican, he often was at odds with Richard Nixon. After visiting Vietnam, he reversed his position on the war, saying that negotiation rather than escalation was warranted. He was among the first to call for Nixon’s impeachment in the Watergate affair. With Walter Mondale, he co-authored the bipartisan Fair Housing Act, which led to the elimination of statutory all-black neighborhoods and housing discrimination. In 1969, he was the featured speaker at Wellesley College graduation, and ended up butting heads with then Hillary Rodham (later Hillary Clinton) over the issue of “constructive protests”.

Despite being a Republican, he championed abortion rights, and Title IX allowing assistance for women, and funding of women’s athletics. His stance on abortion weakened his support among Catholics in Boston. Together with suspicions regarding corruption in the award of contracts, these factors led to his defeat for the Senate by Democratic challenger Paul Tsongas, later a presidential candidate against Bill Clinton.

After leaving the Senate, he returned to his law practice. He received further honors from President George Bush (Medal of Freedom), and the Congressional Gold Medal. He is honored as one of the 100 greatest African Americans. On January 3, 2015, Brooke died at his home in Coral Gables, Florida, at the age of 95.

” I can’t serve just the Negro cause. I’ve got to serve all the people of Massachusetts. “Edward Brooke

” I want to be elected on my own ability. Only then do you have progress… People should not use race as a basis for labelling me.” – Edward Brooke

“When most presidents get in, they move to the center because they realize that this is a centrist country – even Reagan.” – Edward Brooke

” I chose the Republican Party early on in the 1950s and 1960s in Massachusetts. My father was a Republican, as was my mother, in Virginia.” – Edward Brooke

John Henry Cutler’s Ed Brooke: Biography of a Senator.

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