Senator Edward Brooke, the first African American popularly elected to serve in the US Senate, died Saturday at the age of 95. Sen. Brooke was a trailblazing lawmaker elected in Massachusetts, not the least because he identified as a Republican. Brooke served two terms in office.

The Rev. Emmett G. Price III said Sen. Brooke's work for affordable housing is part of a great legacy.

"It's huge," Price said Monday on Boston Public Radio. "His shoe-prints [will] be enormously felt for generations. (...) He didn't necessarily fall in line with the Republican ideology of the time."

Price cited Brooke's Christmas Day 1974 letter to the Boston Globe as an example of his singular voice on Capitol Hill. Brooke wrote that it was "deplorable" people opposed bus-facilitated racial integration in Boston. "I cannot accept, nor can I believe, that Bostonians want a segregated school system." Price said Brooke's letter was the perfect combination of sentiment and savvy.

The Rev. Irene Monroe said Sen. Brooke was a consummate statesman in a way that reminded her of former Sec. of State Colin Powell. "He wasn't a 'race man' per se," Monroe said. "He really felt like blacks should be in the Republican Party."

Monroe said Sen. Brooke was a pragmatist who voted with his conscience — and not always with his party. Brooke refused to support Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in his 1964 bid for office. He also demanded Pres. Richard Nixon's resignation.

Price wondered why so few African Americans became senators after Brooke. He attributed it to the high level of scrutiny elected officials face.

Monroe said money and time were also factors, and that Brooke's convincing runs for office weren't enough to bring about lasting change. "Of course he won in a landslide. The point is, we don't have that leverage to maintain many other Edward Brookes to follow."

>> Rev. Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist who writes for Huffington Post and Bay Windows. Rev. Emmett G. Price III is a professor of music at Northeastern University, and the author of The Black Church and Hip Hop Culture. You can hear them every Monday at 1 PM on Boston Public Radio.