Edward William Brooke, III

(New York, NY)—Yesterday, the nation lost a historic figure and true champion of civil rights laws with the passing of Edward William Brooke, III, the first African American ever popularly elected to the Senate. Among his many contributions, Brooke was the author and original co-sponsor of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, passed by Congress shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He cited his own difficulties finding a home after returning from military service during World War II as an impetus for the Fair Housing Act.

As an appointee to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Commission on Civil Disorders, Brooke pushed for the government to fund a series of programs to increase educational, housing, and employment opportunities for minorities living in urban areas. In 1975, Brooke, a Republican, also supported extending the Voting Rights Act of 1965, giving a passionate address on the Senate floor that eventually resulted in the extension of the measure for another seven years. 

As recently as last month, he joined former and current Members of Congress in filing an amicus brief in a case before the Supreme Court, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, which challenges a critical element of the Fair Housing Act.  The Supreme Court will hear the case on January 21st.

Statement from Sherrilyn Ifill: “During a critical time in our nation’s history, Senator Brooke convinced his colleagues in Congress to put partisan politics aside to advance civil rights legislation; his unwavering commitment to open and fair housing transformed forever neighborhoods and communities across the nation. The bold leadership he exhibited should serve as a model today as we look to our elected officials to find common ground in addressing current issues of racial justice.”

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