Who is Edward Brooke?

Edward Brooke was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Wednesday. Mr. Brooke was the first African-American elected to the US Senate by popular vote.

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    US President Barack Obama congratulates Congressional Gold Medal honoree former Senator Edward William Brooke during a ceremony on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
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Edward Brooke, a former US Senator from Massachusetts, received the Congressional Gold Medal Wednesday.

At the award ceremony on Capitol Hill, President Obama said that Senator Brooke "moved the arc of history." He and others followed in Brooke’s legacy, the president said.

Boundary-breaking US Senator: When he took office in 1967, Brooke became the first African-American elected to the US Senate by popular vote. He served two terms before being defeated by Paul Tsongas in 1978. Massachusetts has not elected a Republican Senator since.

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Republican politics: Brooke is a self-described moderate. He voted against two of President Nixon’s Supreme Court nominees, and he was the first senator to call for his resignation. He is known for working both sides of the aisle. He organized weekly meetings with other like-minded senators to plan how to advance their progressive agendas on causes such as civil rights, housing, education, and women’s rights.

Other posts: Before becoming a Senator, Brooke, who was born in 1919, served in World War II and as Massachusetts Attorney General from 1962 to 1966. In 2007, Brooke penned a memoir, “Bridging the Divide: My Life.”

Education: He graduated from Howard University and Boston University Law School.

Nomination: Sen. Edward Kennedy nominated Brooke for the Gold Medal two years ago, collecting the 67 Senate votes required to bestow the award.

Of Brooke, Senator Kennedy said he had an "extraordinary career of breaking down the barriers of race and reaching across party lines to bring people together around common-sense solutions.''

The Gold Medal – the “highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions” – has been awarded 150 times since 1776, when George Washington became its first recipient. Most recently, Arnold Palmer received the award last month. Each medal honors “a particular individual, institution, or event.”

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