(Updated 3/22/2013) The Congressional Black Caucus became 43 members strong with the addition March 18 of interim Sen. William “Mo” Cowan (D-Mass.).
Cowan joined Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) in the U. S. Senate, marking the first time two African-Americans have served simultaneously in that congressional body. Scott, however, a Tea Party favorite, chose not to join the CBC.
“I’m honored to join the Congressional Black Caucus and I am grateful to my colleagues in the House for extending the opportunity,” Cowan said in a statement. "I have long admired the work of the CBC, especially their efforts in education, equal justice, and addressing health disparities. I’m looking forward to joining the other members in the continuing work to ensure that America remains the land of opportunity for all.”
Cowan, 43, became the first African-American senator from Massachusetts since Edward Brooke (1967 to 1979). He was appointed to fill the vacancy created when John Kerry became secretary of state. He will serve until a June 25 special election which will decide who will finish out Kerry’s term, which ends January 2015.
According to The Boston Globe, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Cowan’s appointment was the “the affirmation of the American dream,” given his humble roots. Cowan grew up poor in North Carolina to parents who lived through the Jim Crow years, and he and his sisters were raised by their mother after his father’s death.
Despite his beginnings, however, Cowan graduated from Duke University and Northeastern University Law School. In 2009 he was hired as legal counsel to Gov. Patrick and, the next year, became the governor’s chief of staff.
During that tenure, Cowan was praised for his dedication to the people of Massachusetts, particularly for helping the Patrick administration steer the state through an economic downturn.
“He has been a valued ally to me and our work on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth,” Patrick said Jan. 30, according to the Globe. “In every step, he has brought preparation, perspective, wisdom, sound judgment, and clarity of purpose.”
CBC Chair Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) said Cowan’s sound reputation on those matters would contribute to the caucus.
“His commitment to the people of the Commonwealth is well known and I look forward to the work he will do in the upper chamber advocating for policies that positively impact their social and economic well being,” Fudge said in a statement. “As the CBC continues its efforts to support policies that strengthen our economy and address high unemployment rates among African Americans, I know Senator Cowan’s experience on these issues will assist us in tailoring recommendations to our colleagues. We are excited to work with him as a Member of the CBC.”
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