In a statement issued to CNN, the esteemed Democrat’s family said her death followed a “long illness.”
“Carrie Meek was our family matriarch who fulfilled this role for the entire South Florida community,” her children Lucia Davis-Raiford, Sheila Davis Kinui and former Florida Rep. Kendrick B. Meek wrote.
“She was a bridge builder and healer, a unifier with a legacy defined by selfless public service,” they continued. “Forever the educator, the Congresswoman taught us all lessons about justice and morality. Her approach was rooted in kindness and humility.”
“Carrie Meek made our society stronger and more equitable — an outcome that is an everlasting tribute to our beloved mother,” her children added. “She was guided by her faith, always inspired by the outpouring of love and community support. We humbly ask for your prayers at this time.”
On Twitter, politicians and more paid tribute to Meek’s historic life and career.
“Saddened to hear of the passing of former Congresswoman Carrie Meek,” Rev. Al Sharpton tweeted. “She was a true and tested warrior for justice and an effective game changing legislator. May she Rest In Peace and Power. Our prayers to Her son Kendrick and the Meek family at this hour of their loss.”
The daughter of a sharecropper and granddaughter of an enslaved woman, Meek was born in Tallahassee, Florida in 1926. After studying and becoming a track and field star at Florida A&M University, Meek went on to earn her master’s degree in public health and physical education at the University of Michigan, which she attended because Black students were barred from attending Florida state graduate schools at the time.
She later taught at multiple universities, including becoming the first Black professor, associate dean and assistant to the vice president at Miami-Dade Community College. In 1987, Meek successfully ran for the Florida State House, beating out 12 other candidates. Five years later, she was elected as Florida’s first Black woman state senator.
Meek went on to leverage her time in state government into a successful bid for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992, making her one of the first Black politicians elected to Congress since the Reconstruction Era, alongside Former Reps. Corrine Brown and Alcee Hastings.
Throughout her terms, Meek championed health issues and helped push a range of Democratic policies, including immigration reform and economic development. In 1999, the late Rep. John Lewis said about Meek: “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 in 2002 and was succeeded by her son Kendrick, who held her House seat for four terms. Besides her three children, she is also survived by her seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
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