Governor Patrick to announce his former Chief of Staff
Since 1870, and the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, America has only seen seven African American United States Senator. The 100-member body of government, known as the most exclusive 'good ole boys' network in the country, currently has only one black member – recently appointed by a South Carolina Governor.
All that is about to change, as Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) is about to get some much welcomed colored company and the US Senate is about to get its 8th black member, when Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appoints William 'Mo' Cowan to replace outgoing Senator John Kerry.
As Kerry was recently confirmed by the US Senate, by a 94 to 3 vote, to serve as the nation's new Secretary of State; he had to resign the senate seat he had held for 29-years and left the choice of his replacement up to Patrick, the state's first African American Governor. According to the state constitution, the governor's appointment of an interim US Senator is only a 'placeholder' until the voters of Massachusetts officially choose Kerry's replacement in a special election set for June 25th of this year.
However, Patrick wasted little time in choosing a temporary successor that he felt comfortable with, and while ignoring the request of popular Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank's appeal for the seat, he instead chose to stick with someone he knows best – his former chief of staff. Cowan, a native of North Carolina who graduated from Duke University and wound up in Boston to attend law school at Northeastern University, was first hired by Governor Patrick in 2009 as his chief legal counsel before being promoted to chief of staff in 2010.
One of the state's most prominent black attorneys, the 43-year old Cowan was a former partner at the very politically connected law firm of Mintz Levin. Cowan and Patrick became very good friends over the years, both rising through poverty and difficult childhoods (Cowan lost his father at age 16) to becoming two of the most prominent blacks in the New England region. Cowan served as an advisor to many local and state politicians in and around Massachusetts, even serving as a confidant to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney when he sought qualified black attorneys for judicial picks when he faced severe criticism for his 'lack of diversity' amongst his appointees.
"I believe choosing 'Mo' [Cowen] was a smart, progressive and strategic choice that highlights the Governor's savvy leadership," says Marilyn Mosby, one of those very intelligent and prominent attorneys from the Boston area, who now resides in Baltimore. "I am extremely excited about the minority representation 'Mo' brings to the United States Senate, and believe he will serve the constituents of Massachusetts well during his tenure."
Now Cowan is set to become only the second black from Massachusetts to serve in the United States Senate, having to fill some big shoes left by former US Senator Edward William Brooke III – a black Republican.
Brooke was the first African American popularly elected to the US Senate in 1966, when as the nation's only African American Attorney General, he beat Governor Endicott Peabody soundly with less than 3% of the state's electorate being black. He was a liberal member of the GOP who supported fairness, despised President Nixon and blocked Republican Supreme Court nominees; and while he realized the significance and importance of his role as the nation's only black US Senator, he never “intended to be a national leader of the Negro people”.
And while Cowan may only have a few months before the voters of Massachusetts have their say, the opportunity to caucus with the other African American US Senator, Tim Scott – another appointee to the position – and make a difference in the lives of real people, especially people of color, is one he should take seriously!
Whether he takes the Barack Obama approach to being a representative of all people, while playing race relations behind closed doors, or the Carol Moseley Braun approach to wearing the distinct honor on her sleeve in her advancement of colored folk despite what other people thought; Cowan now has the opportunity to assist the black man in the Oval Office, in highlighting issues that face black Americans.
It's fine to want to focus on Latino's rights with legal immigration, women's rights to better pay and gay rights for marriage equality; but blacks also have 'rights' to a better education system, safer streets and voter protection, free from intimidation and voter purging. So exactly what Cowan and Scott's appointments mean for a 'Black Agenda' may be unclear at this time, but just the possibility of finally having two blacks in a white-male dominated house of government at the same time – not to mention our presence in the White House – should at least constitute some sort of discussion as to 'what's in it for us'?
Politics is based on the art of persuasion and capitalizing on the right moment, as evident in the gun control talks being dominate based on the Newton, Connecticut tragedy; therefore, now is the time we looked at capitalizing off of the presence of these two great men – and the millions of voters and citizens of this country that look like them. For if not now, then when?
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African American US Senators since Reconstruction:
Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American to serve in the Senate.
Blanche Kelso Bruce was the first African American to serve a full six-year term as senator and the only senator to be a former slave.
Carol Elizabeth Moseley Braun was the first female African American to serve in the Senate.
Timothy Eugene "Tim" Scott was both the first African American and the first to be affiliated with the Republican Party to represent a southern state since the end of the . He was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley to succeed Jim DeMint.