Alum Awarded Congressional Gold Medal
Edward Brooke's legacy of equal rights lauded| From Commonwealth | By Kelly Cunningham
Edward W. Brooke III (LAW’48,’50, Hon.’68)
“You’ve got to get together. We have no alternative. It’s time for politics to be put aside on the back burner.”
The words of Edward W. Brooke III (LAW’48,’50, Hon.’68), spoken during his acceptance of the Congressional Gold Medal in October, reflect the former senator’s spirit and legacy as a bipartisan pioneer during a time of national unrest.
The first black member — and only black Republican — elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote, Brooke represented Massachusetts from 1967 to 1979. During his tenure, Brooke fought for equal opportunity in education, voting, employment, health services, and affordable housing. In 1969, he organized a coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and the NAACP to defeat the Supreme Court confirmation of a Nixon nominee accused of repeatedly ruling in favor of segregation.
President Barack Obama, in presenting the medal to Brooke, said, “Today’s honor bears a unique significance: bestowed by this body of which he was an esteemed member; presented in this place where he moved the arc of history; surrounded by so many, myself included, who have followed the trail that he blazed.”
The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the nation’s legislative branch, has been awarded only 150 times since 1776, when the Second Continental Congress presented it to its first recipient, George Washington. Other winners include Thomas A. Edison, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, and Elie Wiesel (Hon.’74), BU’s Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2004 Brooke was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.