Former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek of Florida being remembered

Free Press wire reports | 12/3/2021, 8:36 a.m.
Former Congresswoman Carrie Meek, who died Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, is being remembered as a trailblazer, a descendant of a …
Rep. Carrie Meek

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Former Congresswoman Carrie Meek, who died Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, is being remembered as a trailblazer, a descendant of a slave who became one of the first Black Floridians elected to Congress since Reconstruction. But the late Congressman John Lewis had another way of describing her.

“We see showboats and we see tugboats. She’s a tugboat. I never want to be on the side of issues against her,” the late Congressman Lewis said of Rep. Meek in a 1999 news article.

Politicians and public figures on Monday recalled Rep. Meek’s pioneering career, with many noting her devotion to working class families in her Miami district as well as her powerful oratory, in an outpouring of support after her death at age 95 after a long illness.

“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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

“On the Appropriations Committee where we both served, she was a force, bringing to bear the special power of her soft accent and strong will for her community and country. Indeed, she was formidable in meeting the needs of her community, including by advocating for Haitian immigrants and refugees and creating economic opportunities for working families in her district,” Speaker Pelosi continued.

Congresswoman Meek was 66 when she won the 1992 Democratic congressional primary in her Miami-Dade County district, later winning the seat in an unopposed general election race. On her first day in Congress, she reflected that while her grandmother, a slave on a Georgia farm, could never have dreamed of such an accomplishment, her parents told her that anything was possible.

“They always said the day would come when we would be recognized for our character,” she told The Associated Press in an interview that day.

In Congress, she was a champion of affirmative action, economic opportunities for the poor and efforts to bolster democracy in and ease immigration restrictions on Haiti, the birthplace of many of her constituents. She was a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee and worked to secure $100 million in aid to rebuild Dade County as the area recovered from Hurricane Andrew.

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

“Congresswoman Meek was the granddaughter of slaves who likely never have imagined how far she would go, but to the benefit of generations yet unborn, her parents encouraged her to believe that she could achieve anything she set her mind on — and she did,” Rep. Wilson said.

Even before Congresswoman Meek’s death, lawmakers lauded her work.

“Only in America can the granddaughter of a slave and the daughter of a former sharecropper believe that she can achieve and conquer all that presents itself in opposition to her dreams,” the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in April, said of Congresswoman Meek in 2003. “Carrie Meek has set the stage and perpetuated the legacy of political astuteness for all of us, but particularly for African-American women everywhere.”