Carrie Meek, a former black congresswoman, dies
Fort Lauderdale, Florida. — Carrie Meek, the granddaughter of a slave and the daughter of a farmer who became one of the first black Florida residents elected to Congress since Reconstruction, died Sunday. She was 95 years old.
Her family said in a statement that Mick died at her home in Miami after a long illness. The family did not specify the cause of death.
Mick began her career in Congress at an age when many people were beginning to retire. She was 66 when she handily won the 1992 congressional primary in the Miami-Dade County area. No Republicans opposed it in the general election.
Alcee Hastings and Corrine Brown joined Meek in January 1993 as the first black Florida residents to serve in Congress since 1876 as federal courts redistricted state districts pursuant to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
On her first day in Congress, Mick reflected that while her grandmother, a plantation slave in Georgia, would not have dreamed of such a feat, her parents told her that anything was possible.
“They always said the day will come when our character will be honored,” she told The Associated Press in an interview that day.
In Congress, Meek advocated affirmative action, economic opportunity for the poor, and efforts to advance democracy and ease immigration restrictions on Haiti, the birthplace of many of its constituents.
She was also known for her liberal views, popular rhetoric and strong rhetoric, and colorful Republican bashing.
“The last Republican who did something to me was Abraham Lincoln,” she told the state delegation to the 1996 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Mick joined her son Kendrick, a former police soldier and senator, in a 2000 sit-in in the office of then Florida Governor Jeb Bush, to protest the end of affirmative action policies. She has long argued in favor of such policies, ever since she received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1948. At the time, blacks were not accepted into graduate schools in Florida.
Mick decided not to run for a sixth term in 2002. Her son Kendrick managed to win her heavily Democratic district, a seat he held for four terms before a failed bid for the United States Senate in 2010.
After leaving Congress, Carrie Meek returned to Miami and set up a foundation to work on education and housing issues. She was also criticized for some of her business dealings.
She lobbied for a planned biotech park in the Miami slum of Liberty City, but it never materialized. County authorities eventually launched a criminal investigation, and the park’s developer was arrested in October 2009 for stealing nearly $1 million from the project.
Congressional records showed that Mick was paid while her son sought millions of federal dollars for the project. Meek said she was paid as a consultant, and both mother and son denied their efforts were related.
Before entering the world of politics, Mick worked as a teacher and administrator at Miami-Dade College.
She was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1978, succeeding leading black legislator Gwen Cherry, who was killed in a car crash. She became one of the first African Americans and the first black woman to serve in the Florida Senate since the 19th century
Born Carrie Pittman to parents Willie and Carrie Pittman in Tallahassee on April 29, 1926, she was the youngest of 12 children. Her father worked in the neighboring fields as a farmer, and her mother took laundry from white families.
She graduated from Florida A&M University in 1946 with a degree in Biology and Physical Education. The university named its building the Black History Archive in her honor in 2007. She was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
She accepted a position at Python Cockman College as a coach and became the institution’s first female basketball coach. In 1958, she returned to Florida A&M as a health and physical education coach. She held this position until 1961.
Mick continued her teaching career at Miami Dade Community College as the first black professor, associate dean and assistant vice president from 1961 to 1979.
Thereafter, she began her pioneering political career, representing Florida’s 17th congressional district as a Democratic Representative in the Florida State Assembly.
In Congress, Mick 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.
She retired in 2002 and turned her focus to the Carrie Meek Foundation, which she founded in November 2001, to provide the Miami-Dade community with much-needed resources, opportunities, and jobs. Meek led the organization’s day-to-day operations until 2015 when she resigned due to her declining health.
Mick is survived by her children Lucia Davis-Raeford, Sheila Davis-Kenway and Kendrick P. Mick, seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
In a statement, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniela Levine Cava called Mick a “true pioneer.”
“She has never been afraid to use her voice to speak out against inequality or to fight for the disadvantaged and the vulnerable — and her towering legacy will continue to shape our community and nation for generations to come,” said Levine Cava.
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