By Nancy Porter Morrill
President Emerita, Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition
As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, I am remembering a man who died recently who embodied the transformational character of King but who never preached about race relations. United States Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Massachusetts) had three losing campaigns for public office until he was elected Attorney General in 1962, re-elected in 1964, and then went to the United States Senate in 1966, serving two terms. He was the first black to serve as Attorney General in any state and the first black member of the US Senate since the Reconstruction era.
It was my glorious privilege to serve on the staff of the Senator from 1962-1969 as his personal secretary. Those years were defining for me. I was the first person hired in the campaign for Attorney General. Interestingly enough, one of the persons interviewing me had been my mentor when I spent a summer during college as in intern in Senator Leverett Saltonstall’s DC office (which is proof that one should never burn any bridges behind). In the course of nine years the experiences were incomparable. I often criss-crossed the “highways and byways” of Massachusetts, saw the inner workings of statewide political campaigns, attended state and national party conventions, typed how many thousands of letters (and I was the one who turned down jobs right after college because I didn’t want to type!), began to understand how the state and federal governments work, and met extraordinary people.
But the real lessons came from the values, ethics, expectations of excellence, and commitment to all peoples and races that the Senator imparted and exemplified.
Dr. King was assassinated just prior to the Poor People’s Campaign March on Washington in 1968 when thousands of people lived in Resurrection City while they lobbied for meaningful jobs, adequate income, access to land and capital, and a role in government. I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the Solidarity Day event at which Senator Brooke was the only spokesman for the government and Congress among the 26 speakers before an estimated 100,000 attendees on the Mall.
Today, the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition speaks with one voice in the legacy of Dr. King and Senator Brooke, advocating for dignity and economic self-sufficiency for women and their families. Please consider partnering with us in our work toward Dr. King’s understanding that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it always leads toward justice.”