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Former US Senator Edward Brooke Dies at 95


Former Sen. Edward Brooke speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington during a ceremony in which he received the Congressional Gold Medal, Oct. 28, 2009.

Edward Brooke, a former U.S. senator from Massachusetts and the first African-American elected by popular vote to the chamber, died Saturday. He was 95.

Brooke's death was confirmed by a family spokesman, who said he died surrounded by family at his home in the southern state of Florida.

A liberal Republican, Brooke won his Senate seat in 1966 and was re-elected in 1972. He was one of only two African-Americans to serve in the Senate in the 20th century, and the first since the end of the American Civil War, when state legislatures appointed senators.

President Barack Obama, in a statement, praised Brooke for "an extraordinary life of public service." He also hailed Brooke's pragmatic approach to lawmaking and said he stood "at the forefront of the battle for civil rights and economic fairness."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a former Massachusetts senator, also issued a statement, calling Brooke a "strong public servant."

Kerry added, "Whether in the Army infantry during World War II, where he was awarded the Bronze Star fighting fascism; or as state attorney general, battling corruption; or, finally, as a United States senator, helping to pass landmark civil rights legislation and pushing for affordable housing, Ed Brooke gave to his country every day of his life."

Brooke was widely seen as a centrist, during an era when Congress was noticeably less partisan than it is now. He was among the first U.S. lawmakers to call on former President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974, as the scandal known as Watergate gripped the nation. He also opposed two Nixon nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court over civil rights issues.

Observers widely viewed Brooke as a consensus builder who backed fair housing legislation and improved ties with China.

He lost his bid for a third term in 1978 to Democrat Paul Tsongas, as details of a bitter divorce drew the attention of the national press corps. The controversy led Brooke to admit that he'd made a false statement under oath during a court deposition.