First elected black US senator dies

WASHINGTON, United States - The first elected black US senator, Edward Brooke, died Saturday, January 3. He was 95.

Brooke was a trailblazer in Congress when he was elected a senator in 1966.

"A decorated war hero, this Massachusetts Republican was a highly respected legislator responsible for shaping our nation's laws and ensuring equal rights for all men and women," the northeastern state's Republican party said in a statement.

A liberal Republican, Brooke represented Massachusetts in the 100-seat US Senate during two terms from 1967 to 1979.

Before Brooke, other African Americans had served in the Senate but they were chosen by state legislatures.

During a ceremony awarding Brooke the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009, President Barack Obama hailed him as a man who "spent his life breaking barriers and bridging divides."

Obama, America's first black president, said he "followed the trail" Brooke had blazed through the segregated United States.

Born October 26, 1919, Brooke studied at Howard University in the US capital Washington, fought in World War II as a member of a segregated regiment and practiced law.

Before joining the Senate, he was the attorney general for Massachusetts. He was the first black person to hold a state attorney general post in the US.

Obama was just the third elected African American member of the nation's highest legislative body.

After Obama, black senators Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Republican Tim Scott also won elections to the Senate.

A "deeply saddened" Scott took to Twitter to say that Brooke "was a true trailblazer; those of us who followed cannot thank him enough."

Former congressman Allen West said Brooke was a "fine role model and vanguard."

Booker was elected to the chamber in 2013.

After being appointed to the post in 2013, Scott won a special election to hold the seat in 2014. - Rappler.com