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Remembering former Sen. Edward Brooke, 95, political giant and party outlier – Part 1

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now to the passing of a political giant.

    Barack Obama was only 5 years old in 1966, when Edward Brooke paved the way for the history that was to come more than four decades later. That's the year Brooke was elected a Republican senator from the state of Massachusetts, the first African-American in that body since Reconstruction.

    Brooke had also been Massachusetts' first black attorney general and he earned the Bronze Star for his service in World War II. After the war, Brooke moved to Boston, where he practiced law before shifting to a career in politics. In 2003, he was interviewed by The HistoryMakers' oral archive and recounted the pushback he encountered from other politicians as he sought to run for Senate.

    FORMER SEN. EDWARD BROOKE, (R) Massachusetts: All of them said they were thinking about running themselves, and which, to me, strengthened my position that I didn't have any time to waste to run.

    Now, you might say, well, isn't that political opportunism? Of course it's political opportunity. But that's what politics is all about. I learned that. You strike when the iron is hot.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Brooke went on to serve two terms as a Massachusetts Republican, making his mark on major anti-poverty and housing legislation. After initially supporting President Richard Nixon's bid for office, Brooke earned his reputation as a party outlier by becoming the first Republican senator to call for Nixon's resignation.

    He came to be known for his bipartisan efforts in the Senate. In 2009, Brooke was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. Edward Brooke III died on Saturday at his home in Coral Gables, Florida. He was 95 years old.

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