The coffin containing the remains of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward William Brooke III is brought inside the Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015, during a funeral service Brooke, the first African-American to be popularly elected to the U.S. Senate. Brooke died on Jan. 3, 2015 at his home in Coral Gables, Fla. He was 95. Front row, from left are, Secretary of State John Kerry, from left, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. and former Virginia Sen. John Warner are in the second row. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The nation’s chief diplomat, members of both chambers of Congress and other political figures reflected on the life and work of the late Sen. Edward Brooke. Brooke, the first Black popularly elected U.S. senator, was celebrated on March 9 and 10 with events and memorials taking place at leading landmarks in the District.
The late Sen. Edward Brooke, an African-American Republican who served in the U.S. Senate from 1967-1979 andthe first of his race elected as a state attorney general (Massachusetts from 1963-1967), was remembered by family, friends and members of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, one of the speakers at the funeral service held at the Washington National Cathedral on March 10, said that Brooke was a great American.
“In 1967, when he was escorted on the Senate floor by Sen. Edward Kennedy, he was an advance scout probing the soul of our country,” Kerry, a former senator from Massachusetts, said. “For all of his history, Ed Brooke was his own man.”
Brooke died on Jan. 3 at the age of 95. A District native, he attended Dunbar Senior High School and Howard University, won a Bronze Star in the Army, had a groundbreaking career in politics in Massachusetts, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2004, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
In addition to the Brooke family, among the hundreds attending the funeral were Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and former Sens. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), Mo Cowan (D-Mass.), John Warner (R-Va.), and Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.). D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who spoke at the funeral, was joined by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), among others, to represent the House of Representatives.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large), and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker were present at Brooke’s funeral.
Kerry said Brooke’s achievements during his political career were remarkable because Massachusetts was only two percent Black and predominantly Catholic and Democratic. The secretary said that Brooke’s life has had an impact on the present.
“There is a straight line from Ed Brooke’s election in 1962 to more than 40 years later”, Kerry said referring to the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States.
Norton said Brooke was an anomaly, given that he lived in a racially segregated District that had no representation in Congress and fought in World War II in an all-Black Army unit. Despite those challenges, he emerged as a senator, Norton said.
“I cannot explain the conundrum that is Edward Brooke,” the delegate said. “I can tell you that he had warmth and talent that made him successful as a public man and a friend.”
Milton Davis, a former president of Alpha, said he got to know Brooke through the fraternity’s history book. “I would read about the great Alpha men such as Thurgood Marshall, W.E. B. DuBois, and Jesse Owens and none still stood out more dramatically than Edward W. Brooke,” Davis said. “He was my hero. The history books have yet to give him the credit that he has earned.”
Edward Brooke IV, the late senator’s son, said that his father was “a truly sweet, tender, and lovely man.” Rear Admiral Barry C. Black, Senate chaplain, said Brooke “greeted life’s challenges with equanimity and excellence.”
Brooke was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
On March 9, Alpha honored Brooke with an Omega Service, a ceremony reserved for deceased members of the fraternity, at the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel on Howard’s campus. Brooke joined Alpha at Howard University’s chapter and became a national undergraduate and east coast leader. The Rev. Matthew L. Watley of Reid Temple A.M.E. Church and the Rev. Jonathan Augustine of St. Paul A.M.E. Church of New Orleans led the two-hour service.
Alpha politicians attending the service included Orange, Scott and Rep. Al Green (D-Texas). Scott, in his remarks, noted that other Alphas in the House such as Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Chaka Fattah (D-Penn.), David Scott (D-Ga.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), and Danny Davis (D-Ill.) could not attend the ceremony but where there in spirit.
Howard President A.I. Frederick said the university would match donations to the Brooke Chair in the Department of Political Science to value it at $1 million.
Alpha’s general president, Marc Tillman, and past general presidents Davis, James Ponder, Harry E. Johnson, and Darryl R. Matthews spoke about the impact Brooke had on Alpha and on their lives.
“Brooke was a Republican in the of Abraham Lincoln,” Ponder said.
“He was not just an Alpha man, but a great man,” Johnson said.