Carrie Meek, who became one of the first Black Floridians elected to Congress since Reconstruction, died on Sunday, reports NBC News reports. She was 95.
In a statement, her family confirmed that she passed away at home after battling an illness. No cause of death has yet been given.
As the granddaughter of a slave and a daughter of a sharecropper, at 66-years young, Meek began her congressional career in 1993 and along with Alcee Hastings and Corrine Brown became the first Black Floridians to serve in Congress since 1876.
“They always said the day would come when we would be recognized for our character,” she told The Associated Press on her first day in Congress.
Born in Tallahassee, Florida, Meek was a graduate of Florida A&M University in 1946 with a degree in biology and physical education. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the university would name its building for Black history archives in her honor in 2007.
Continuing her education, Meek earned an M.S. degree from the University of Michigan in 1948. She enrolled at the University of Michigan because universities in Florida did not admit Black students at the time.
After accepting a position at Bethune Cookman College as an instructor, she became the institution’s first women’s basketball coach. In 1958, she returned to Florida A&M as an instructor in health and physical education.
Meek was the first Black professor at Miami Dade Community College on her way to becoming the associate dean, and assistant to the vice president from 1961 to 1979.
Elected to the Florida House in a special election in 1978, Meek succeeded another Black trailblazer in Florida politics Gwen Cherry, who had been killed in an auto accident. Meek was a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee and secured $100 million in federal aid to rebuild Dade County in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.
As a congresswoman, Meek gained a reputation as a fighter for economic equality, affirmative action, immigration reform, and for democracy to flourish in Haiti, the birthplace of many of her constituents.
Upon retiring in 2002, Meek launched the Carrie Meek Foundation, “to provide the Miami-Dade community with much-needed resources, opportunities, and jobs.” She ran the day-to-day operations until 2015 when she retired because of declining health.
In a statement, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called Meek a “true trailblazer”
“She was never afraid to use her voice to speak out against inequality or to fight for the disenfranchised and the vulnerable—and her towering legacy will continue to shape our community and the nation for generations to come,” Levine Cava said.
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.
Funeral arrangements are still pending.
We offer our prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Rep.Carrie Meek.