Politics

Carrie Meek, pioneering Black former congresswoman, dies at 95

One of the first Black members of Congress from Florida died on Sunday at the age of 95.

Meeks, the grandaughter of a slave and daughter of a sharecropper, succumbed to a “long illness” on Sunday, leaving behind several family members. Many are calling her a trailblazer and a politician devoted to her constituents.

In 1992, at the age of 66, Meeks began her political career, running for Congress in the Miami-Dade District. She quickly won the Democratic congressional primary and soared to victory as no Republicans ran in opposition to her. In January 1993, Meeks, along with Alcee Hastings and Corrine Brown, became the first Black Congresspeople from Florida since 1876, when Florida’s districts were redrawn.

On her first day in Congress, Meeks spoke to the Associated Press, recounting how her grandmother, a slave, never would have dreamed of being a member of Congress. Meeks’ also said her parents encouraged her, telling her she could do anything she put her mind to. “They always said the day would come when we would be recognized for our character,” she recalled.

In 2002, she did not run for another term. Her son, Kendrick, ran for her seat and won. She is remembered for her passion for affirmative action and her strong liberal opinions. In 1999, the late John Lewis said of Meeks, “We see showboats and we see tugboats. She’s a tugboat. I never want to be on the side of issues against her.”

Rep. Frederica S. Wilson released a statement, calling Meek an “exemplary role model for elected officials like me who broke down barriers so that we could follow the path she paved and succeed.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi looked back at her time working with Meeks and said, “Throughout her decades of public service, she was a champion for opportunity and progress, including following her retirement, as she worked to ensure that every Floridian had a roof over his or her head and access to a quality education.” 

ARTICLE: RITA VOGT

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: POLITICO

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