Senate: Two Black Members a First

Photograph by Massachusetts Governor's Office

This undated photo released by the Massachusetts Governor’s office shows
William “Mo” Cowan, right, former chief of staff for Gov. Deval Patrick.

William “Mo” Cowan, the choice of Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick for John Kerry’s Senate seat, is joining a chamber that will have two black members for the first time in its history.

Cowan, a Democratic lawyer and Patrick’s former chief of staff, will join a Senate that includes Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican who entered the Senate by way of appointment this month as the first black senator from the South since the Reconstruction era more than a century ago.

At the same time, Cowan will serve on an interim basis for about five months and isn’t running in a special election planned June 25. Kerry is vacating his Senate seat on Friday to become Secretary of State.

Cowan will become just the eighth black senator in history, adding his name to a short list that includes President Barack Obama, who was an Illinois senator for four years. Obama’s successor, Democrat Roland Burris, served for less than two years on an interim basis; one of their predecessors, Democrat Carol Moseley Braun, served from 1993 to 1999 and remains the only black female senator in history.

Edward Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican who held the seat Cowan will assume, served from 1967 to 1979 as the first black senator to enter the chamber by popular vote.

Hiram Revels and Blanche K. Bruce, both Mississippi Republicans, served in the Senate during the Reconstruction era, though never together.

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