Click here for past issues of the Globe Magazine, dating back to June 22, 1997
Click here for past issues of the Globe Magazine, dating back to June 22, 1997
The unfinished chapterBy Sally Jacobs
Edward W. Brooke III is talking about a tuna sandwich. He is standing in the penthouse of the elegant Beacon Hill mansion he recently purchased, gazing down at the wooden bench on the Boston Common where he used to eat his lunch between law school classes. He remembers the meal in exquisite detail - the thin slices of rye bread, the chilled glass of tea, even the wedge of chocolate cake - as he does the young man with the adventure of his life about to unfurl before him.
It is an astounding vantage point from which to consider the singular odyssey of former US Senator Ed Brooke. Right there, on the other side of Beacon Street, is the third-floor office he occupied as the first black in America to be elected to the post of state attorney general. To the west, you can barely see the roof of the Copley Plaza Hotel, where Brooke rocked the nation in 1966 when he became the first black popularly elected to the US Senate. Directly across the street is the apartment he occasionally shares with his 18-year-old son, Edward Brooke IV. And a short walk to the right is the New Chardon Street Courthouse, which, 22 years after he left the state under a shadow, is to be named for Brooke this spring.
"Who would have thought I'd end up here," Brooke, who is now 80, muses as he gazes through the dusty windows. "I've missed it. I've missed it a lot."
Brooke's visual tour, however, is not complete. Some distance behind the penthouse is the lawyer's office where, in 1978, a stricken Brooke confessed that he had made a false statement about his finances in his divorce deposition. The admission, prodded by his eldest daughter's leaks to the press, erupted into a staccato of charges that ultimately cost him his Senate seat. And that, too, is why Brooke has returned to Massachusetts after nearly a quarter-century of a certain self-imposed exile.
They have, in their way, been good years. Brooke worked as a lawyer for a decade and has more recently pursued a variety of investment interests. He has also found love. Six months after he lost his Senate seat, Brooke married Anne Fleming, a woman 29 years younger than he from the island of St. Martin, and together they had a son. They live a cushioned life between his old Watergate apartment in Washington, D.C., a hilltop villa on St. Martin, and their sweeping Virginia farm. Many afternoons, Brooke gazes at the Canada geese gathered on the farm's pond as he dictates his memoirs. If Brooke has spent his time in the wilderness, if the clock has tolled away some long, desolate afternoons, he has also found a certain peace. He talks about God and forgiveness and carries the Daily Word, a religious homily, just as his mother did.
But scratch the surface, and the wound festers raw and ragged. Although Brooke has worked on his memoirs for years, he has been unable to write a single word of the chapter on 1978. It's not just that he lost the political life that he loved or that his dream of a bid for the presidency was shattered. It is not even his belief that whatever he might have done wrong - and Brooke was never criminally charged despite multiple investigations - he did not deserve what happened to him. It's that people lost faith in him. And perhaps, for a time, so did he.
"It was just a divorce case. It was never about my work in the Senate. There was never a charge that I committed a crime, or even nearly commited a crime," Brooke declares, his voice rising. "I would certainly not be truthful if I didn't say I was sorely hurt when the people of Massachusetts voted against me and didn't look beyond the allegations and didn't remember what I had tried to do for them.
"Why did it happen? I don't know. I've asked my God that many times. Why, why, why, dear God?"
The words carved into the stone pillars at the end of the winding driveway say "Edan Farm." Passersby often mistake the name for "Eden Farm" and, indeed, the handsome mint-green house overlooking the smoky Blue Ridge Mountains with its pool and tennis court seems to fit the name. In fact, Edan is the melding of Brooke and his wife's first names - Ed and Anne.
"It's our name," grins Brooke, dressed in green corduroys and gray fleece vest, as he leans back in a leather armchair. "We're joined together."
The joke is that it is their own little Eden. The Brookes bought the rolling 150-acre estate in tony Warrenton, Virginia, in 1984 because the town offered better schools for their young son than those in Washington. The couple often make the one-hour trip to their Watergate apartment, where Brooke keeps an office. But it is the farm that clearly draws Brooke, who spent time as a child at his mother's family farm in nearby Petersburg. He wheels his blue pickup down the dirt roads, rides his horse past the charred chimneys and sagging springhouses that dot the horizon. His wife is never far away.
"When people ask me what I do, I used to say I take care of a 17-year-old and a 79-year-old," says Anne Brooke, 51. "But I probably shouldn't say that. Really, I take care of the houses."
Ed Brooke is an old man now. His famously handsome face has surrendered to jowls. The once elegant body has thickened and slowed. The auburn hair is a shade too dark. His former wife is dead, as are many of his oldest allies. But the old charm waxes warm as ever. Brooke is that rarest of things: a gentleman. He listens. He even remembers. He travels regularly to the local dump to pluck the wildflowers growing in the fertile soil there. After a difficult interview, he telephones a reporter at home late in the evening to say, "I didn't want to go to bed with unpleasantness between us. So I am calling to say good night. Good night."
And he is a man, above all, who still loves to dance as much as he did some 20 years ago, when he was regularly featured in the Washington society pages. Last fall, during a round-the-world trip on the Concorde, the Brookes wound up at a Hong Kong restaurant sitting next to the pilot and his wife. Ed Brooke invited the woman to dance, and when the band struck up a tango, he whipped off his jacket and flourished its red silk lining.
"He was the matador and she was the bull," recalls Anne Brooke. "He just flipped the cape, and she went with it. The people in the audience loved it. They were clapping wildly. There was no one else on the dance floor. In the end, she falls dead on the floor, and he twirls the cape over her. It was a great event. If we are somewhere and things are dull, Edward has that knack of livening things up. He has no difficulty being center stage."
In November of 1978, Brooke found himself removed from that spot when he was defeated in his bid to keep the Senate seat he had held for 12 years by a little-known Lowell congressman named Paul Tsongas.
Although polls had warned that reports of Brooke's financial dealings stemming from his divorce had dangerously tarnished his reputation for personal integrity, it was a staggering loss for a man who had built his reputation campaigning against corruption and self-interest.
Nor was it Brooke's loss alone. Brooke had, after all, been one of the brightest stars. He was The First: the first man of his race elected to the state attorney general's office and the first popularly elected to the Senate. Never mind that his being a Republican made it all the more extraordinary. But Brooke had also been one of the most popular political figures in Massachusetts. And before reporters began digging through his papers, he was often mentioned as a candidate for vice president and possibly even president. Although there were critics, and harsh ones, on both sides, Brooke was a man who seemed actually able to straddle the jagged rift between black and white America. So when the final numbers went up on that cold November night, a kind of inchoate dream was abruptly extinguished.
"He went to his hotel that night and called me," recalls Anne Brooke. "He was hurt and embarrassed. He felt he'd let so many people down. You know, the whole thing of being the first and all. I think he was a little relieved it was all over, too. The burden was lifted."
Brooke and his future wife left for St. Martin the next morning. Shortly afterward, Brooke retreated to his Watergate apartment and confronted his blank future. Unemployed, no longer talking to his two daughters, who had spoken angrily against him in the press, he spent much of his time with his mother, who lived a few flights above him.
"I didn't want to see people. I didn't want to talk to people," Brooke recalls. "I wanted to just be alone."
Strapped for cash after his divorce despite his property holdings, Brooke soon began looking for a law job. It was a difficult process, he recalls, shadowed, "again, by that horrible feeling. Very few people didn't know about the divorce and all." Although he eventually signed on with the small but prestigious Washington law firm of O'Connor & Hannan, Ed Brooke was disappointed with his $125,000 salary:
"It was peanuts compared to what others were getting when they got out [of the Senate], OK? Even then. But I was in no position to negotiate. I was wounded, right? They weren't exactly knocking down my doors."
Brooke, who had practiced law for more than a decade before his political career blossomed, was back at the bar. He represented the NAACP and an association of coal companies. A former member of the powerful Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, he also handled a lot of probate work. But the law, with its detail and paperwork, was no longer so good a fit.
Increasingly, Brooke devoted time to the boards of companies such as the Northrup Grumman Corp., a military aircraft manufacturer, and Meditrust Corp., a Needham real estate investment trust, on which he still serves. Although Brooke had lost his Newton home in his divorce settlement, he maintained many Massachusetts ties, and gradually he began to visit Boston again. He served as chairman of the Boston Bank of Commerce, the city's only black-owned bank, during a critical period of growth in the mid 1980s. A lifelong opera fan and former chairman of the Boston Opera, he was chairman of the executive committee of the Washington Performing Arts Society. He also served in 1983 as a member of the Japanese American Evacuation Redress Committee, which examined the treatment of the Japanese during World War II.
But Brooke's real passion even after leaving the Senate remained housing. Linked by the Southerner's blood tie to the land, Brooke has a visceral belief in the power of home. In the Senate, he became one of the fiercest proponents of affordable housing and was often referred to as "Mr. Housing." He was named chairman of the national Low-Income Housing Coalition in 1979, and President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the President's Commission on Housing. With the help of many of those relationships, Brooke also worked as a housing consultant, advising developers and communities on federal programs. It was that work that once again thrust Brooke's name into the headlines and ultimately caused him to withdraw from the public arena entirely. In 1988, Brooke came under investigation for influence peddling in connection with $183,000 he received from developers who had been awarded millions of dollars in federal subsidies from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Questioning focused, in part, on whether Brooke had sought to influence HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce. Brooke says he not only did not approach Pierce, who is also black and a Republican, but did not even know him. But Thomas H. Quinn, senior partner at O'Connor & Hannan, says that while he doesn't think Brooke did anything wrong, Brooke certainly knew Pierce: "People came to the firm because of Brooke's relationship with Pierce. They were friends. People would say, `How do you talk to the head of HUD?' And you'd say, `Talk to Ed Brooke."'
Although Brooke's assistant, Elaine Richardson, pled guilty to aiding Brooke in making a false statement to federal agents, Brooke himself was never charged. The investigation, however, went on for 10 years. All of Brooke's papers and records were subpoenaed from his law office, as were many of the firm's. Brooke voluntarily left the firm in 1988, although the firm continued to support him, and several partners believed investigators were "picking on" Brooke. While his name long remained on the office letterhead, Brooke never went back.
"It was 1978 all over again. The hurt. The injustice," Brooke declares. "And to tell the truth, I wasn't happy practicing law to begin with. I just didn't want to go back. You wonder how many clients are going to come to you, anyway, under those circumstances. It doesn't make it easy."
Brooke went home. And home meant Anne.
They had met in 1971, at a cocktail party on St. Martin, where Brooke had long had a residence. Beautiful, the daughter of the island's former mayor, who was a prosperous developer, Anne Fleming was married at the time and the mother of a daughter. But the two developed a relationship over the years, and when Brooke was defeated, she was there. They were married in a small ceremony in 1979, and two years later she gave birth to their son. Photographs of the couple in deep embrace and poised before crashing surf adorn the tables of their Virginia home.
"Everything revolves around his wife and his son, to see that they are secure and happy," says Brooke's former law partner James W. Symington, a former congressman from Missouri. Symington's father, Stuart, was a senator who served with Brooke. "They are the alpha and omega of his existence. They are the reason that he is ever young."
Ed and Anne Brooke spend a lot of time together. While he works in his Watergate office, she tends to the properties as well as to her family's island business from an adjoining apartment. Often, they hold hands. Sometimes she leans against his chair and runs her hands through his hair as he talks. When she enters the room, Brooke beams, "Hey, baby."
Although they still go to parties and often invite people to Virginia, they stay home more often than not. The past echoes throughout the house. Brooke's Senate desk, an imposing block of Honduran mahogany, sits in a corner of the family room now graced by a bowl of peppermint candies. In the small hunter-green room that is his office, the walls are covered with old black-and-white photographs of Brooke striding through his political career. There he is, grinning and victorious, arm in arm with President Nixon; huddling with President Johnson in the Oval Office; shaking hands with Senator Leverett Saltonstall; guffawing with Muhammad Ali; shoulder to shoulder with Elliot Richardson, who recently died; and trailed by his closest aide, Roger Woodworth, who was badly injured when a bus struck him on a Boston street last fall. There are plaques and awards and degrees, and dozens more in the basement.
"I was one of God's chosen few, no doubt about it," says Brooke, surveying his younger self. "Not only being elected, but the joy and pleasure I derived from it. It was a wonderful life. You know, I asked myself many times, `What did I do? Why me?' I asked it so many times. And then I listened. You stop asking and you listen. And pretty soon, things began to break for me."
The Brookes travel to St. Martin a couple of times a year, largely to manage family business and care for their home there. Six years ago, they sold the Martha's Vineyard house that Brooke had summered in for 35 years for $500,000, because it was too much work. Brooke, says his wife, has changed somewhat over the years.
"I feel he's lost that happy-go-lucky side to him, the side that enjoyed going out and having fun," says Anne Brooke, stylish in a tea-length black skirt, a black turtleneck, and gold choker. "He's much more of a homebody. He always used to say, `When I work, I work hard, and when I play, I play hard.' He doesn't play as much."
What he is doing is working on his memoirs. Brooke began writing them in longhand several years ago, parted company with one co-author, and has been working with a new writer, Marie Lanser Beck, since last spring. They meet for marathon sessions; Brooke speaks for hours into a black microphone, his astounding memory requiring only minor prodding. He skirts constantly around the 1978 period. Although the pages are blank, he knows the chapter's title: "Betrayal and Loss."
The memories are impossible to escape; they flirt like pale shadows in the dusk. It's not that people bring the subject up, that they actually ask him about those events. But it's there. The slight hesitation when they are introduced to him, the question in their eyes. Brooke likens it to a sore, "a nagging, hurting sore that lingers on, that never leaves you."
He continues: "They're thinking, `Didn't he do something? Wasn't he involved in something?' You know, that's always there. At least, I always feel that it is," Brooke says carefully. "And that will probably follow me to the grave."
January 3, 1967. It is opening day of Congress. A scriptwriter could not have designed the moment more artfully.
Edward Brooke strides triumphantly down the plushly carpeted aisle of the Senate chamber to be sworn in, escorted by Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Tall, elegant, born to a Washington, D.C., neighborhood where blacks were required to carry a note from a white person in order to pass through, Brooke is greeted by a standing ovation. Although two blacks were elected to the Senate by state legislatures before Reconstruction, Brooke is the first to be popularly elected. There has been only one other black senator since: Carol Mosley Braun of Illinois.
The celebration is disrupted by a commotion at the other end of the Capitol, where Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the first black to hold a position of significant power in Congress, has just been expelled for misusing funds, and thousands of angry blacks have gathered in support of the flamboyant militant. The two men could not have been less alike. Somehow, the moment seems to capsulize all the racial turbulence and uncertainty seething throughout the country.
Ed Brooke did not run as a black man. He did not run as an angry man. He was a honey-colored man married to a white woman, living in white Newton. He liked tea and opera and tennis, and he still does. When he broke the color barrier by winning the attorney general's seat in 1962, he proclaimed: "Hardly anyone even mentions I'm a Negro anymore. I think it's progress."
Brooke puts it a little differently these days, but the idea is the same. "I've never tried to run away from my race. I was born a black man. You know that in your bones as soon as you are able to understand this country. ... My approach to life about race is, I don't see the difference between black people and white people. I wanted to go to Washington to bring people together who had never been together before. I wanted to break down the barriers between races."
And so, although a champion of civil rights, Brooke sought to erase the color line by ignoring it. As attorney general, for example, Brooke ruled in 1963 that a student boycott of the Boston public schools to protest segregation was illegal, putting him in conflict with the NAACP and civil rights leaders. Some never forgave him. A few called him "Uncle Tom." Author James Baldwin derided him as "one of the innocents who are bringing about the ruination of the country."
But if Brooke's ascendancy was questioned by some, others saw it as a triumphant milestone. "Brooke showed it could be done," says Ruth Batson, a prominent civil rights activist in Boston. "At that time, to have a black accomplish what he accomplished was just a wonderful, wonderful thing to look at."
Blacks, however, accounted for only 2 percent of the Massachusetts electorate in 1962, and it was white voters who put him in office. "Brooke's election was a feel-good occasion for so many people, not just Afro-Americans but many white liberals who took pride in Brooke," says Richard N. Smith, political biographer of George Washington and Herbert Hoover, director of the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library in Michigan, and a former speechwriter for Brooke. "People felt proud of him and good about themselves being represented by a man of such caliber. He was a man you wanted to be associated with. It wasn't just race. Race may have been what opened the door, but you can't be in public life as long as he was and not be identified on a much broader range of actions."
Brooke defied the categories. Reared in middle-class Washington, D.C., the son of a Veterans Administration lawyer, Brooke attended Howard University before being drawn to Massachusetts by two Army pals. Upon graduating from Boston University Law School, he moved to Roxbury and ran for state representative in both the Republican and Democratic primaries in 1950, as was then allowed. After winning the Republican nod - although he lost the general election - Brooke realized the entrenched Democratic circles were closed to him, so he cast himself as a moderate Republican.
Ten years later, Brooke barely lost a bid for secretary of state against former mayor Kevin H. White but made such an impressive showing that he was appointed chairman of the Boston Finance Commission. Brooke electrified the dormant watchdog agency, exposing graft and corruption and, just as important, making headlines. By 1962, Brooke was one of the most popular politicians in the state and wrested the Republican nomination for attorney general from Elliot Richardson, the archetypal blueblood Yankee, by a resounding 260,000 votes.
President John F. Kennedy, calling a columnist on election night, exclaimed on learning of Brooke's win, "My God. That's the biggest news in the country."
It is hard to grasp, nearly four decades later, how big a win it was, bigger, in many respects, than the two Senate wins that would follow. Brooke was a black man, a Republican, and a Protestant. He had won in a state that was 98 percent white, two-thirds Democrat, and overwhelmingly Catholic. Part of his success was due to the 1960s and a Republican Party bent on expansion. Part of it was Brooke's hewing to a moderate course in both Republican and civil rights arenas. And part of it was Brooke himself.
"Whatever `charisma' means, he had it," says Martin A. Linsky, a former Brookline state legislator, secretary to former governor William Weld, and a Republican analyst. "He was an extraordinary campaigner. I haven't seen many people before or after who had that kind of magic. When he looked at you, you felt he was not only thinking about you and only you, but that he probably hadn't thought about anyone else in weeks."
Eloquent and engaging, imbued with an old-school sense of privatism and manners, his suit invariably pressed even after brutal stretches on the road, Brooke was likened by many to Jack Kennedy. And in Washington, especially during the early years, he was in hot demand at the dinner table.
"He was very attractive and very good company in ways Washington responded to more than Boston," says William I. Cowin, a Boston lawyer who worked for Brooke in Boston and Washington. "He was something of a curiosity, you know, the first black senator. He was something of a charm. People would say, I've had Ed Brooke at my party or event."
Brooke emerged during his Senate years as a champion of a host of liberal programs on behalf of the poor, including Medicare, Social Security, and housing legislation. A member of both the Senate Banking Committee and the Appropriations Committee, he introduced the Brooke Amendment, which in 1969 capped low income rents at 25 percent of income and still stands today at 30 percent. He was prominent in the fight to win access to abortion for poor women, to end segregation in the nation's schools, and to preserve busing. But Brooke maintained his characteristically independent course and irritated liberals, too, such as when he supported the Johnson administration's policy in Vietnam. While the public was not always aware of it, Brooke's buttery voice, dipped deep in the South, was becoming a persuasive force within the Senate.
In the early 1970s, as Brooke began to break with the Nixon administration on critical issues, the public began to take note. Although a Republican loyalist, Brooke was the first Senate Republican, and for a long time the only one, to call for Nixon's resignation in 1973. He also led the opposition that foiled the US Supreme Court nominations of G. Harrold Carswell and Clement F. Haynsworth, in part because of their records on civil rights issues. Increasingly, Brooke was in the national eye.
If the Supreme Court nominees marked the first time that Brooke was out front on an issue largely defined by race, it did not, however, soothe his complex relations with some black members of Congress. Brooke's refusal to join the Congressional Black Caucus shortly after he entered the Senate - there were only five black House members at the time - angered some members. He later infuriated others when he would not take part in a caucus boycott of President Nixon's 1971 State of the Union address. Although Brooke aligned with the group on a number of issues and addressed its annual convention, his refusal to take a more public role on the bloody civil rights battlefield has not been forgotten.
"I really can't say what Brooke did in the area of civil rights, and it is remarkable that I can't say," says US Representative Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who defeated Adam Clayton Powell in 1970. "What I am saying is, and I am choosing my words carefully, I have no idea what the senator was up to or what he did in the civil rights struggle. I don't remember him."
For many others, Brooke's sometimes muted but persistent struggle within the Senate was enough. If Brooke chose not to join the front lines, or if the political reality of his largely white constituency prohibited him from doing so, that was all right with them.
"Ed Brooke was one of the icons," declares former US representative Walter E. Fauntroy, a Washington,
D.C., Democrat who served in Congress from 1971 to 1991 and was a founding member of the caucus. "I felt protective of him because I didn't want him brought down over attention to the causes addressed by those of his own race. It would have limited his power at home as well as in the Senate."
As the 1970s wore on, however, other factors emerged to limit those powers. The Republican Party itself had grown distinctly more conservative, and Brooke's school of moderate liberalism had been sidelined. Brooke himself had become a social presence and a gossip column fixture. A regular at the lavish parties at the Iranian Embassy, he did the hustle with Elizabeth Taylor and squired Barbara Walters about town. A 1976 article in the Washington Post's magazine titled "Is Ed Brooke Missing in Action?" asked: "Is he, as some claim, a smooth underachiever?"
Perhaps, as Kevin White saw it, "He just started looking in the mirror too often, and he liked what he saw. Could you blame him? I mean, in four years he'd gone from AG as a black man in Massachusetts to the first black in the Senate. That's hard to take in balance. Yeah, it went to his head. That's an understatement."
Or was there something more complex going on? Had the increasing national attention coupled with speculation about a possible bid for the presidency triggered difficult questions for Brooke about his very identity, about, yet again, the color of his skin? Could Ed Brooke never surpass being The First?
Linsky, the former legislator who occasionally campaigned with Brooke, recalls a visit Brooke made to Tuskegee, Alabama, shortly after he handily won reelection in 1972. During his visit, Brooke was greeted by huge, adoring crowds, his name trumpeted along the roadways. To the nearly all-black crowd in Tuskegee, Brooke was an almost unparalleled hero.
"I was struck by how stunned he was by the enormity and emotion of the reception," recalls Linsky. "It was as if he had not wanted to accept the role which others wanted for him or the mantle others had placed on him, and here he came face to face with it."
It is an issue that some believe haunts the writing of his memoirs. If it has been difficult for Brooke to reconcile his political place with the role of his race during his career, it may prove profoundly more so as he tries to craft his own version of his legacy. Edward Brooke III will be remembered in some history books as a statesman and a champion of the oppressed. He will be remembered in others as a tragic figure whose achievements will long be eclipsed by his downfall. But he will be remembered in them all as The First.
"It's the one thing he won't put on his gravestone," says Smith, the former Brooke speechwriter. "But it's what every historian will put in his obituary."
The history books will also include The Loan. For it was The Loan that was the beginning of the end.
On May 26, 1978, a headline on the front page of The Boston Globe trumpeted the news: "Brooke Admits Swearing Falsely on $49,000 Loan." Although Brooke had said in a sworn deposition in his divorce that he owed the money to a friend, he did not.
Why he lied has never been clear. In fact, Brooke owed $2,000 to the friend and $47,000 to a family fund. At the time, Brooke told the Globe he did it to maximize his liabilities in the divorce proceedings. At a jammed press conference in his lawyer's office the following day, he said he did it to shield family financial dealings he considered private.
"I did make a misstatement, and I did make a mistake," a beleaguered Brooke said. "And I apologize for making both."
The Loan was only the beginning. There followed a drumbeat of allegations in the Globe that revealed, at best, an astonishingly murky state of financial affairs. There was the fund - part of an insurance settlement awarded his mother-in-law - that Brooke managed, which he had not only mingled with his personal money but which appeared to be at least $10,000 short. There was a $7,333 legal fee that Brooke had failed to deposit in the family fund. There was a deed for the St. Martin house on which the purchase price was substantially underreported, apparently for tax benefits. Perhaps worst of all, Brooke's mother-in-law had improperly received $50,000 in Medicaid benefits, apparently after her money had been shifted into the fund to make her appear eligible. Hovering over it all was the prospect that Brooke might be charged with perjury in connection with the loan statement.
It was an awful lot of smoke. And the original match had been struck by none other than Brooke's oldest daughter, Remi. It was Remi, then 29, who supplied Brooke's deposition to the Globe. Angry because she felt that her mother was being shortchanged in the divorce, infuriated by the rumors of her father's womanizing, Remi went on the radio and accused her father of lying. And of failing to make support payments to her mother. And later, along with her sister, Edwina, of falsely claiming his daughters as tax deductions.
"It's very hard to talk about. I mean, my father didn't really do anything," exclaims Remi Goldstone, now 50, married for the fourth time, and living in Sparks, Maryland. "Looking at it as an adult, I must have been out of my mind. How could I have felt that way? How could I ever have gotten involved?"
Brooke, hearing his daughter rail against him on the radio as he drove along the Mass. Pike one day, was dumbfounded: "I couldn't believe it. This was my daughter. My daughter. It was a nightmare. A real nightmare. I just had to keep going."
The marriage had been unhappy for years. Brooke and Remigia Ferrari-Scacco had met in her native Italy during the war and married shortly afterward. They were married for 31 years, but as Brooke's political career escalated, the couple had drifted apart. At the time he filed for divorce in 1976, the two had not lived together as man and wife for more than a decade. Brooke, in fact, had lived largely in Washington since joining the Senate and visited their Newton home on occasion. But Remigia and her daughters were not expecting a divorce.
"It broke my heart, because I didn't want to have to make a choice," recalls Remi. "I was much closer to my father than my mother. You know, we're so much alike. I was ambitious and interested in all the things he was. So I thought it would pass. I thought he would come back."
When the Globe's Spotlight series of investigative articles about Brooke was completed, the paper's editor, Tom Winship, hesitated long and hard.
"It was the hardest decision I ever made in 20 years of editing the Globe," Winship says. "I really felt in my heart if we ran that series it would be the end of Ed Brooke and the end of the first black US senator since Reconstruction days."
It was. Brooke was never charged with anything. After a 10-month investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee concluded that while there was "credible evidence" of wrongdoing on Brooke's part, it did not merit punishment by the Senate. The Suffolk County district attorney decided not to press perjury charges because Brooke's statement about the loan would not have impacted the divorce outcome. Brooke ultimately reimbursed the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare $40,000.
Brooke never lashed out publicly at his daughters, even when their tax accusations proved untrue. Instead, he attributes many of the improprieties to others. His former wife, he says, handled her mother's Medicaid situation. His accountant handled his taxes. His assistant and lawyer handled the family fund. At worst, he says, he was guilty of sloppy bookkeeping.
"There was no wrongdoing, no criminal doing," Brooke declares hotly. "Frankly, if you go back over it and look, you probably came to the conclusion that this man didn't even know what was going on, and he didn't. I'm not saying this in defense. I am saying it as a fact. Not a fact that I am proud of. I was just not handling it."
And what of the misstatement about the loan? Why, if his wife was aware of the fund, as she apparently was, did he say he owed the money to someone else? Brooke says the three lawyers involved in the divorce case told him to, that they agreed he would say he owed the entire $49,000 sum to his old friend A. Raymond Tye, a Boston liquor wholesaler. But Brooke, a man who can recall events of a quarter century past in stark detail, does not remember why.
"I knew about it when it was explained to me by the lawyers, I'm sure," Brooke says with a shrug. "But now I don't remember."
So, what of the lawyers? One of them, Jack Bottomly, a Brooke adviser, is dead. Robert F. McGrath, Brooke's lawyer at the time, declined to comment, saying, "the file has been buried for 21 years." Monroe Inker, the Boston lawyer who represented Remigia Brooke, says he never agreed to such a plan. Inker, in fact, says he warned Brooke that his mother-in-law's receipt of Medicaid would ruin him. "I said, `This will cost you your Senate career.' He just shrugged. You know, the trouble with Brooke is, everyone liked him so much he felt he could do anything. No one said no."
By the fall of 1978, the damage had been done. Candidates who would never have considered running leapt into the Senate race, and some of Brooke's longtime supporters deserted him. If there were some who felt Brooke was getting his due, others believed he was being held to an unfairly high standard. Some attributed it flatly to race, others to a post-Watergate "gotcha" mentality.
"I believe to this day the Boston Globe coverage of Ed Brooke's divorce crossed the line," declares Ralph Neas, former director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., and a former Brooke staffer. "I think it was irresponsible and unprofessional coverage. There was a legitimate news story, but they absolutely crossed the line."
Voters did not necessarily think Brooke had done anything wrong, but the integrity so central to Brooke's appeal seemed irretrievably damaged. And Brooke understood why.
"I had made my reputation on integrity. OK. That was my slogan," says Brooke, gazing out at the pond as his hand drums absently on the wooden chair arm. "So if you are reading every day in the newspaper, here's a man who didn't give his wife clothes to put on her back, who's claiming his children on his income tax when in fact he's paying nothing for them at all, who put his mother-in-law on Medicaid, therefore defrauding the state. OK? And who isn't telling the truth in a sworn deposition. Would I vote for that man?"
His voice fades into silence, his hand now striking the chair arm loudly. Then that, too, stops.
"I don't know," he concludes quietly.
It was his daughter Edwina who found the building. A Boston realtor who lives in the family's old Newton house, she had kept her eye out for a place for her father for years. This was undoubtedly it. Not only was it a historic landmark at the corner of Tremont and Beacon streets, it was occupied by lobbyist Thomas M. Joyce, whose father, Thomas Joyce Sr., a Republican and himself a potent power broker, was an old friend of Brooke's. The two spent many long hours in Joyce's second-floor office.
"They used to call this the state house and that the annex," Brooke laughs, pointing at the State House across the street.
For Brooke, who purchased the building last fall, owning property in Massachusetts again is an emotional experience. He has not had a residence here since his former wife took over their Newton home in the divorce settlement in 1978. But time has smoothed the edges of even that jagged-edged year. It is time to come back.
This school year, Brooke's son entered Brown University in Providence. Brooke and his wife visit New England more frequently these days, and Brooke intends to convert the five-floor building into condominiums and rent them out. But, as he wanders through the empty rooms in his black trenchcoat and green baseball cap, he allows that maybe, just maybe, he'll keep one of the units for the family.
There is also, perhaps, some tiny sense of justice in the fact that the New Chardon Street Courthouse will be renamed for him this spring. State Senator Brian Lees, the minority leader and a former aide to Brooke, persuaded his colleagues to include in the budget a rider to change the courthouse name. Not a single legislator opposed it.
Even the girls are back, and for a long time that didn't seem possible. Brooke and his daughters did not speak for nearly five years after he lost the election. Then, one day, as he was swimming in the ocean at St. Martin, a friend of Edwina's waded into the water and told him, "Your daughter is on the beach, and she's crying. She wants to talk to you."
Brooke went to his daughter, and for a long time they embraced. Eventually, he and Remi also began to talk. It is not the same as it used to be. Brooke has never talked to his daughters about what happened in 1978, and he is not sure he ever will. Each of them says the other does not want to discuss it.
Remi calls her father several times a week now, sometimes to talk politics, sometimes just to say hi. She sends a stream of gifts. An elegant iron horse for the mantel. A box of lamb chops. A pair of stone dogs for the yard. Last summer, she sent a Federal Express truck with 10 boxes of his favorite peach ice cream refrigerated inside.
Sometimes, Remi takes her family to Virginia on holidays. She and her father get into his truck and drive across the hills in search of the perfect sunset vista. When they find it, they stop and watch in silence, just as they did when she was a child in Roxbury. And sometimes, still, he heads to the dump.
"When we were little, he used to go to the dump, you know, the dirtiest of all places," recalls Remi. "He'd put on his gloves, and he'd stop and pick the wildflowers there, and he would come back with the most beautiful flowers you'd ever seen. He'd say, `You can always find beauty in places you least expect it.' Well, you know, that's just my father."
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