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BOSTON (AP) — Former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke, the first black to win popular election to the Senate, has died. He was 95.

Ralph Neas, a former aide, says Brooke died Saturday of natural causes at his Coral Gables, Florida, home.

Brooke was a liberal Republican elected to the Senate in 1966 and served two terms. The only blacks to serve in the Senate before him were two men in the 1870s when senators were still chosen by state legislatures.

Brooke said he was "thankful to God" that he lived to see Barack Obama become the nation's first black president.

Brooke was honored October 2009 with the Congressional Gold Medal. At the time, the president described Brooke as "a man who's spent his life breaking barriers and bridging divides across this country."