ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z

Edward Brooke
National Visionary

Born October 26, 1919 in Washington, DC

Former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts,
Attorney, Consultant








BIOGRAPHY
The story of Edward Brooke’s life as a public official, author, and soldier is a chronicle of triumph over numerous racial hurdles. After serving in Africa and Italy as an officer in the Army during World War II, he began a long and distinguished career in public service. Brooke was the first African American in the United States to be elected as a state’s Attorney General. Later, he became the first African American to be elected to the United States Senate since Reconstruction.


Brooke as a young man


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The only son of Helen Seldon and attorney Edward W. Brooke, Jr., Brooke was born in Washington, DC on October 26, 1919. After earning a B.S. degree from Howard University in 1941, he served as a second lieutenant in the all-black 366th Combat Infantry Regiment. Before leaving the U.S. Army, he was promoted to captain and received a Bronze star. After the war, he graduated from Boston University’s School of Law, where he served as editor of the Boston University Law Review.

Brooke began practicing law in 1948 and became a successful Boston attorney. In 1963, he was sworn in as Attorney General of Massachusetts—the only Republican to win a statewide election that year. While holding this position in Massachusetts, he gained a reputation as a vigorous prosecutor, while also working to uphold the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. A black Republican Protestant in a state that was overwhelmingly white, Democratic, and Catholic, Brooke had persuaded voters to look beyond his race, party, and religion to his record and qualifications.


This interview has
been archived in the
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African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
Center

Those qualifications served him well when he launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1965. He was sworn in as senator from Massachusetts in 1966, and became one of the most well respected members of the Senate. While in office, he was instrumental in developing the legislation that would become the 1970 Housing and Urban Development Act. Earning high praise and respect for the trail he blazed for African Americans in government service, he was a strong advocate for low-income housing projects, minority business development, school integration, and increased Medicare funding.

In 1979, after serving two terms in the Senate, Brooke continued to champion the causes he supported while in office. He headed the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, joined feminist Gloria Steinem in forming a pro-choice group called Voters for Choice, and appeared before his former colleagues to voice support for federal grants to help the poor purchase fuel oil.

In addition to his book Challenge of Change: Crisis in Our Two-Party System, his extensive writings on legal and political issues have appeared in professional journals and news publications across the country. Having dedicated his career to helping make America a better place for all Americans, he is the recipient of the Spingarn Award presented by the NAACP, and holds 34 honorary degrees. Now retired, he currently lives in Florida with his wife, Anne. He is the father of two daughters and one son

VIDEO CLIPS


EXTERNAL LINKS
Edward Brooke's Wikipedia page

RELATED LINKS
John Conyers' Visionary Page (Congressional contemporary)
Shirley Chisholm's Visionary Page (Congressional contemporary)
Charlie Rangel's Visionary Page (Congressional contemporary)

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/brookeedward


ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z