U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, Florida’s senior member of Congress who fought racial injustice as a Florida A&M University-educated civil rights lawyer, died Tuesday morning. He was 84.

What You Need To Know

  • Rep. Alcee Hastings, congressman from Florida, dies after cancer diagnosis

  • Hastings was a Democrat, represented parts of Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach

  • Was Florida's longest-serving member of Congress after departure of Bill Nelson

Hastings, an Altamonte Springs native, had been in hospice care in recent days, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, which first reported the news. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Reactions to his death came swiftly Tuesday. Mourners hailed him as an advocate for civil rights and equality.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Congressman Alcee Hastings,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz said in an email from the organization. “Our state lost a tremendous leader this morning. Congressman Hastings was a trailblazer and true giant of Florida politics."

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried posted on Twitter:

"Representative Alcee Hastings was a longtime crusader for equality — he fought to pave the way for so many ... He will be greatly missed."

Tweeted U.S. House Rules Committee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma): "I was saddened to learn of the passing of my long-time Rules Committee colleague, Alcee Hastings of Florida. I served with Alcee in Congress for more than 18 years and on the Rules Committee for almost 10."

Hastings, a Democrat who represented parts of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis must call a special election to fill the vacancy in Hastings's district, which is overwhelmingly Democratic. The winner serves until the end of Hastings's term. The congressman's death lowered Democrats's majority in the U.S. House to 218-211.

Hastings's election to Congress followed his 1989 removal, for bribery and perjury, from his post as a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

A criminal court acquitted him of conspiracy and obstruction of justice in 1983.

But Congress took up his case after suspicions arose that Hastings had falsified evidence. The House impeached him, and the Senate voted to convict him on 8 of 11 articles of impeachment.

The Senate voted based on a committee’s investigation. Hastings had argued that the full Senate should have heard the case before voting.

The chamber ordered Hastings removed from office but didn’t vote to disqualify him from future office.

After winning his U.S. House Seat in 1992, Hastings and went on to win 14 more congressional elections and become vice chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. Along the way, he earned the reputation as a champion of minorities, seniors, and immigrants, among others.

Hastings challenged "the government to fulfill its constitutional promise of equality and opportunity for all," said Diaz, the Florida Democratic Party chair. "Today we pause to express our deepest sympathy to his family, colleagues and friends."

Pointing out that he got to know Hastings during his time as a U.S. senator and then as Vice President, President Joe Biden said in a statement: "I greatly admired him for his singular sense of humor, and for always speaking the truth bluntly and without reservation. A trailblazing lawyer who grew up in the Jim Crow South, Alcee was outspoken because he was passionate about helping our nation live up to its full promise for all Americans."

Long before his career in politics, in 1964, Hastings joined a Fort Lauderdale law firm where he and a colleague filed lawsuits, among others, to desegregate Broward County Schools and against a restaurant that wouldn’t serve them because they were Black – even though the restaurant was popular with other lawyers and judges, the Sun Sentinel reports.

"All who knew Alcee knew him as a champion for the most vulnerable in our nation," U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said in a statement. "As an attorney, civil rights activist and judge, and over his nearly thirty years in Congress, he fought tirelessly to create opportunities to lift up working families, communities of color, children and immigrants. From his position as Vice Chairman of the powerful Rules Committee, he was an effective force in ensuring that the voices of the American people were heard in the halls of the Congress."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.