by John Avalon
Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Beast
Ed Brooke was a man ahead of his time—a pioneer of the civil rights movement and a prophet of a post-racial America that is still beyond us. And like all prophets, he was under-appreciated by his country, his community, and his party for far too long.
In 1966, Ed Brooke single-handedly desegregated the Senate by becoming the first African-American elected by popular vote in American history as a Republican from Massachusetts—where less than 3 percent of the population was black and less than 1 in 10 voters were registered Republicans.
His Senate election occurred just three years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and one year after LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act into law over the objections of GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, a frequent Brooke foe. In 1962, when Brooke became the first African-American Attorney General in the nation, President Kennedy called it “the biggest news in the country.”
During his two terms, Brooke was discussed as a possible Vice President on Richard Nixon’s re-election ticket and then became the first Republican to publicly call for Nixon’s resignation after Watergate. He championed increased public housing, tax-credits for the working poor, fought for desegregation of public schools and uttered one of the first known calls for what is now known as cyber-security on the Senate floor, saying “for computer-caused invasions of privacy there are no laws. Here we must enact legislation to safeguard the constitutional rights of our citizens from cybernetic invasions.”
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