Political trailblazer Carrie Meek, the first Floridian elected to the U.S. Congress since reconstruction, has died at age 95 after a long illness.
Meek began representing Florida’s 17th Congressional District as a proud Democrat in 1992 at age 66 and was soon followed by Alcee Hastings and Corrine Brown in 1993.
In Congress, Meek championed affirmative action, economic opportunities for the poor and even became a champion for her Haitian constituents by fighting for fairer immigration policies. As a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, she also secured $100 million in aid to rebuild Miami-Dade County after Hurricane Andrew. She retired from office after six terms in 2002 to focus on the foundation that bares her name, which she founded in November 2001. Meek led her foundation’s daily operations until 2015 when she stepped down due to declining health, but its work continues.
Her political career began in 1978 when she succeeded Gwen Cherry in the Florida House after Cherry died in an auto accident. She became one of the first Black Americans and the first Black woman to serve in the Florida Senate since the 1800s.
Meek graduated from Florida A&M University in 1946 with a degree in biology and physical education.
She accepted a position at Bethune Cookman College as an instructor and became the institution’s first female basketball coach. In 1958, she returned to Florida A&M as an instructor in health and physical education. She held that position until 1961.
Meek continued her teaching career at Miami Dade Community College as the first Black professor, associate dean, and assistant to the Vice President from 1961-1979.
Meek is survived by her children Lucia Davis-Raiford, Sheila Davis Kinui and Kendrick B. Meek, seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and multiple nieces and nephews.