Mo Cowan will soon be the eighth African American U.S. Senator. And the first African-American to represent Massachusetts in the Senate since Republican Edward Brooke held the seat  from 1966 to 1978.

"Every day I've been in Massachusetts I have had opportunity, to grow personally, professionally…but I suspect the reason I'm here is not because I'm a person of color, and African-American, I believe, because the governor has indicated, he has confidence I can do the job he's sending me to do," Cowan said at the press conference announcing his appointment.

A North Carolina native, Cowan moved to Boston 22 years ago to attend law school. Since 2009, he's worked behind the scenes in the State House, first as Gov. Deval Patrick's legal counsel, then as chief of staff. Cowan will fill the position until a special election on June 25. When asked whether the appointment was an effort to boost minority representation in government, Patrick had this response:

"Whether having a black governor was a goal of mine, yeah, I guess it kind of goes with the package," Patrick said. "The fact is the commonwealth and the country is changing. The breadth of diversity and background and ethnicity and race is broader and deeper than ever."

Patrick was a mentor for Cowan when both were practicing law. He mentioned that he and Cowan have a strong personal friendship, in part, because both came from humble backgrounds. Patrick said he views the appointment as an "affirmation of the American dream.”