The first African American elected to the US Senate has died at age 95. Edward Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican, died of natural causes in Florida, the AP reports. He was elected in 1966 and served two terms as a highly popular politician. That came after he became the first African American attorney general of any state, the Boston Globe reports. As a senator, Brooke championed issues including the Equal Rights Amendment and a push for racial integration via busing in Boston, and he was the first GOP senator to call for Richard Nixon's resignation. In 2009, he received the Congressional Gold Medal and called for bipartisanship in Washington.
When Brooke was elected, no African American had served in the Senate since Reconstruction, when senators were chosen by legislators—not elected by popular vote. His victory by nearly 500,000 votes came despite being a Republican in a Democratic state, the New York Times notes, describing him as a centrist. In a 1966 book, he wondered about Republicans: "Where are our plans for a New Deal or a Great Society?" His period in office was not without controversy, the AP notes; he faced a Senate Ethics Committee probe into his personal finances and lost the next election. More recently, describing President Obama's election victory, he said: "I'm not that surprised that he was able to pull it off. But I am thankful to God to live to see this happen." (Read more African-Americans stories.)