Friday, December 18, 2009


By Cleo Brown:

At a time when African-Americans were deserting The Republican Party in favor of The Democrats, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts remained with The Republican Party becoming the first Black Attorney General of his state from 1962 to 1966. In 1966, he became the first African-American elected to the Senate since the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the era of Jim Crow. He was also the first African-American elected to this position in the state of Massachusetts. While Senator Edward Brooke remained loyal to the Republican Party, however, he proved himself to be a renegade and highly individualistic in that the issues he supported were far more liberal than the stance which The Republican Party usually took on such issues including the laws in place which he needed to enforce as the Massachusett’s State Attorney General.

Born in Washington D.C. on October 26th, 1919, Brooke was named Edward William Brooke III. His father, named Edward W. Brooke II, was an attorney by profession. His mother’s name was Helen Seldon Brooke. Although named after his father, he was the youngest child in his middle-class family. And, although he grew up during the era of Jim Crow racism in the South with his family living in all Black neighborhoods most of the time, Edward Brooke’s perspective of the world was not shaped by racism. “Jim Crow” was the period of time in especially, but not exclusively, the Southern United States when laws were implemented which segregated the races prohibiting blacks from using public facilities as well as discriminated against blacks in housing and in employment. Despite the racial segregation and discrimination, according to Black Biography: “for a time {they} 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 Brooke Biography”,p.2) Yet, Brooke maintained, no one called him names. And, as he moved up the ladder of success, not only at Howard University but also in the Military and at Boston University his mentors all tended to be Caucasian Men from The Republican Party.

Edward Brooke received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Howard University in 1941, after which he joined the Military fighting with an all black regiment during World War II. According to Wikipedia, “he spent five years as an officer in the segregated 366th Infantry Regiment and saw combat in Italy.” (”Edward Brooke Biography”,p.1) When Brooke returned to the United States, he attended Boston University’s School of Law earning his LL.B. in 1948.(Wikipedia, p.1) Although he ran for public office several times in Massachusetts between 1949 and 1961, these were not successful bids for election. From 1961 to 1962, however, he was appointed to the position of Chairman of The Finance Commission of Boston. Subsequently, when he ran for Massachusetts State Attorney General in 1962 he won the election. When Brooke ran for The Massachusetts’s State Senate in 1966, it was not generally believed that he would win the election against Endicott Peabody in the predominantly Caucasian and Irish- Catholic Massachusetts.

Edward Brooke’s method of making himself a viable political candidate in the state of Massachusetts was a lengthy process which can be traced back to 1950. Between 1948 and 1950 he ran a “one-man private practice” handling a variety of legal cases. He was, subsequently, convinced by his friends to run for political office. According to Black Biography “they wanted Edward Brooke to run for the office to improve living conditions for the great masses of blacks who lived in Roxbury, Massachusetts.”(p.3) In 1950, consequently, Brooke engaged in a practice called “cross filing” which was then legal.(Black Biography, p.3) “Cross filing” means that he ran in both The Republican and the Democratic Primaries. The Democratic Political Machine, which was entrenched with racism, would not vote for him considering Brooke to be an opportunist. Brooke did, however, consistently win The Republican nomination although he lost the general election.

Part of the hypothesized reason for Brooke’s early failure as a Republican Candidate was his marriage to a non-American woman. While he was in Italy during World War II he had met and married Remigia Ferrari-Scacco. Ferrari-Scacco was not only Italian, but she was also a Caucasian. Brooke, as were most minority candidates of the time, was also endorsed by The Communist Party. This unsolicited endorsement also hurt Edward Brooke politically.

Between 1952 and 1961, Brooke expanded his political machine by increasing his law practice and by engaging in civic activity. In 1960, consequently, he became the first African American in the state of Massachusetts to be nominated for a statewide office although he did not win this election for Secretary of State. Having lost the election by fewer than 12,000 votes, however, he was rewarded by the newly elected Republican Governor of Massachusetts , named John Volpe, who appointed Brooke to the chairmanship of the Boston Finance Committee. Through this chairmanship, Brooke made himself even more marketable by exposing graft and corruption in City Hall. By 1962, consequently, he was amongst the most influential political figures in the state of Massachusetts winning the office of State Attorney-General from Elliot Richardson. “Brooke beat {Richardson} by over 260,000 votes becoming the only Republican in Massachusetts to win an election that year as well as the first African-American in modern U.S. political history elected to such a high state office.” (Black Biography, p.3)

Brooke, however, despite his uniqueness as an African-American, Protestant Political Candidate in a state controlled by White, Irish-Catholics did not, through the power of his job as attorney-general, seem to support a Civil Rights Agenda although in his personal life he was a staunch defender of Civil Rights. For instance, although as attorney-general, he enforced the Fair Housing Law which banned discrimination in renting in Massachusetts, he condemned The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1963 for encouraging school-aged children to boycott the city schools to protest segregation in Boston. (Black Biography, p.4) Although he was in favor of desegregation, he did not believe that The Civil Rights Agenda could best be achieved through the flagrant disrespect of the law by breaking the law which many civil rights groups had begun to condone and participate in. He also did not believe that children should be used as pawns in the Civil Rights Movement. Brooke, rather, believed that true Civil Rights change would best be achieved through the use of the apparatus of Government and not built on the backs of children. He believed that through the use of the referendum, the initiative, the ballot, and that by appealing to one’s senator and/or House of Representative Member that the system of racial injustice in The United States - and- in his case particularly, in Massachusetts, could be changed.

Edward Brooke announced his decision to run for Massachusetts State Senator upon the announcement by Republican State Senator Leverett Saltonstall of his retirement. His opponent, who had the support of Edward M. Kennedy, was the former Governor of Massachusetts named Endicott Peabody. Because of the degree to which state politicians in Massachusetts had become corrupt, however, Brooke - whose office as Attorney General was responsible for uncovering the corruption - won the election. For, while Brooke had proven himself to be an independent thinker who would not be influenced by “Cronyism” Endicott Peabody, as the Governor of Massachusetts, had helped to cover the corruption during his tenure in office. Brooke, consequently, served two terms in office as a Massachusetts State Senator from January 3rd, 1967 to January 3rd, 1979. He was the first African-American to sit in a senate seat in Congress since 1881, and the first African-American to ever hold a senate seat in Massachusetts. No other African-American would rival him until 1993 with the election of Carol Mosley Braun.

Despite Edward Brooke’s impeccable reputation as a corruption and graft fighter, and his stance as an individualist, promoting and supporting programs and policies which were neither Democrat nor Republican (abortion, anti-poverty legislation , social-security, increasing the minimum wage, support for the War in Vietnam, Financial Aid, and Low College Tuition)as he campaigned for a third term as Senator while divorcing his first wife, allegations of financial impropriety surfaced such as:

“misrepresenting his assets to shelter money in a divorce settlement”,

“improperly transferring funds from his mother-in-laws account so that Medicaid could pay her nursing home bills”,

and,” failing to report to the Senate Ethics Committee”(which he had accepted to finance his college education). {Black Biography, p. 4,5)

Although Brooke was never convicted of any crime, he lost the election to Congressman Paul Tsongas whom Kennedy had endorsed. Brooke returned, therefore, to his profession as an attorney working in Washington, D.C., Boston, and New York, and as a Lobbyist.(Black Biography, p.5) In 1989 and in 1992, as a consultant to rent developers “seeking rent subsidies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development”{HUD} he was accused of influence peddling. Despite all of these allegations and charges, however, Edward Brooke is the recipient of over thirty Honorary Degrees. In 2004, he was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by then President George W. Bush Jr. On October 28th, 2009 Brooke was awarded The Congressional Gold Medal by President Barrack Obama. (Wikipedia, p.3) Additionally, on April 29th, 2006, “The Massachusett’s Republican Party awarded its first annual ‘Edward Brooke Award’ to former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.” ( Wikipedia, p.3)

Edward Brooke has recently, once again, become the center of controversy when Television Journalist and anchor woman named Barbara Walters revealed that, while Brooke was married to his first wife, she and Brooke were lovers. Brooke, today, lives in the states of Miami and Virginia with his second wife named Anne. (Huffington Post, Senator Edward Brooke: Who Is Barbara Walters’ Former Lover? December 7, 2009) The couple has one son named Eric. Edward Brooke also has two daughters named Remi Cynthia and Edwina Helene from his first marriage in 1947 to Remigia Ferrari-Scacco which ended in divorce in 1978. He married Anne Fleming in 1979. (Black Biography, p.2)

Perhaps, most telling about Brooke and his individualistic nature, is the fact that despite his longtime Republican Party Affiliation and his loyalty to that party that he was able to warmly embrace President Barrack Obama (a Democrat) on October 28th, 2009 when he was awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor. (The Washington Post, “An Honor for a Senate Pioneer” by Ann Gerhart)

About the Author: Cleo E. Brown is the former Dean of Students and of Academic Affairs in The Learning Institute’s GED Program in Manhattan, New York. She has a Master’s Degree in Contemporary African-American History from The University of California at Davis in Davis, California, and has worked toward a Doctorate in Education at The University of San Francisco in San Francisco, California. Cleo also has a minor bachelor’s degree in Political Science from California State College at Stanislaus in Turlock, California. She is a Senior Editor and a contributing writer at

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