Pioneering former U.S. senator Edward W. Brooke died Saturday.
According to the Huffington Post, Brooke passed away in his Florida home of natural causes, he was 95.
Elected to Senate in 1966, Brooke became the first African American to sit in that branch from any state since reconstruction. He was one of only nine African Americans to ever serve there, including Barack Obama.
Raised in Washington D.C., Brooke was a graduate of Howard University and Boston University Law School, as well as a World War II veteran.
Brooke earned his reputation as a Senate liberal because of his leadership role in the Equal Rights Amendment and his position on using school busing as a tool for racial intergration. He was one of Massachusetts’ most popular political figures during most of his 12 years in Senate.
He was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony in 2004. Five years later, he also received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress has to honor civilians.
When President Obama won the election in 2008, Brooke revealed that he was “thankful to God” to have been able to witness the profound moment. The President expressed a similar gratitude in the wake of Brooke’s death.
“Senator Brooke led an extraordinary life of public service,” Obama said in a statement. “As the first African-American elected as a state’s Attorney General and first African-American U.S. Senator elected after reconstruction, Ed Brooke stood at the forefront of the battle for civil rights and economic fairness.”
Brooke is survived by his wife, Anne Flemming Brooke; their son Edward Brooke IV; his daughters from a previous marriage, Remi Goldstone and Edwina Petit; stepdaughter Melanie Laflamme, and four grandchildren.