Former U.S. Representative Carrie Meek died Sunday at 95 years old.
A spokesman for the family says Meek passed away after a long battle with an illness.
Meek was born in Tallahassee back in 1926, the granddaughter of slaves. Now, she's remembered as a civil rights icon who broke countless barriers to cement a long-lasting legacy not just for Florida but for the nation.
Meek served as Miami-Dade Community College's first Black professor, associate dean and assistant to the vice president. After those victories, she turned her eyes to politics, defeating a dozen other candidates to join the Florida House in 1978, where she served until winning a race to join the Florida Senate in 1982.
A decade later, Meek was one of the first Black Floridians to serve as a U.S. Representative, first winning the seat for her Miami-Dade County district back in the election of 1992 at the age of 66. While in Congress, Meek fought for improved economic opportunities for poor and disenfranchised Americans and advocated for immigrants and refugees from Haiti, where many of her constituents were from.
She was quick to make a strong impression. Back in 1999, John Lewis, the late civil rights icon and U.S. Representative, spoke of Meek's tenacity, saying, “We see showboats and we see tugboats. She’s a tugboat. I never want to be on the side of issues against her."
Meek retired back in 2002. Her seat was filled by none other than her son, Kendrick.
A number of politicians took a moment to reflect on Meek's legacy after her passing.
(1/2) I'm saddened by the passing of an icon and invaluable friend, Congresswoman Carrie Meek. Carrie was a living legend and an institution. Her passion and conviction made everyone around her love, admire, and respect her.— Mario Diaz-Balart (@MarioDB) November 29, 2021
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my predecessor Congresswoman Carrie Meek. She was a true champion for Black communities in Florida and throughout the world. She mentored me throughout my political career and was a role model for politicians… pic.twitter.com/c4dxqZFwto— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) November 29, 2021
“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 recalled.
Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. also looked back on Meek's time at the school.
“She rose from the Florida House of Representatives to become the first African American woman elected to the Florida Senate where she served on the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. She went on to be elected the first Black member of Congress from Florida since Reconstruction. Once in office, Meek faced the task of helping her district recover from the devastation of Hurricane Andrew. Her efforts helped provide $100 million in federal assistance to rebuild Dade County. She lived what we tell our students, ‘You can get there from FAMU,’" Robinson said.
Meek passed away at her home in Miami. She is survived by her three children, seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren.