Opera-Loving Civil Rights Senator Edward Brooke Dies
Before the Obamas: Edward Brooke, seen with his wife and two daughters, paved the way for many.
"Edward W. Brooke III, who in 1966 became the first African-American elected to the United States Senate by popular vote, winning as a Republican in overwhelmingly Democratic Massachusetts, died on Saturday at his home in Coral Gables, Fla. He was 95. Ralph Neas, a family spokesman, confirmed the death....Edward William Brooke III was born on Oct. 26, 1919, in Washington. He was the third child and only son of the former Helen Seldon and Edward W. Brooke II, a lawyer for the Veterans Administration and a Republican, as most blacks were then. He grew up in 'a cocoon,' he wrote in his autobiography, Bridging the Divide: My Life (2007). He had a stable home, firm religious guidance — he was an Episcopal altar boy — and a good education, attending Dunbar High School, a prestigious black school in Washington. Surrounded by middle-class blacks, he wrote, he rarely encountered direct racial discrimination, although when the Washington opera was closed to blacks his mother took him to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Mr. Brooke earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Howard University in 1941. A reservist during college, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant after Pearl Harbor in 1941 and joined the all-black 366th Combat Infantry Regiment. The regiment was assigned to guard duty in Italy; combat was reserved for whites. 'An insult to our dignity,' Mr. Brooke wrote. Put in charge of special events, he brought opera and the heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis to his troops." "He loved opera and served as president and chairman of the Boston Opera Company."[Source, Source]