Former U.S. Congresswoman Carrie Pittman Meek, one of the first Black lawmakers to represent Florida since Reconstruction and a staunch champion of Black communities, died in her home in Miami on Sunday. She was 95.
Meek passed away after battling a “long illness,” family spokesperson Adam Sharon said in a statement. The family did not specify a cause of death.
“Carrie Meek was our family matriarch who fulfilled this role for the entire South Florida community. She was a bridge builder and healer, a unifier with a legacy defined by selfless public service,” said her three children—former Florida Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, Lucia David-Raiford and Sheila David Kinui.
“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,” the 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.”
Born in Tallahassee, Florida, as a sharecropper’s daughter and granddaughter of a slave, Meek became one of the first Black Floridians to serve in Congress since 1876 after she was elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1992. At the time, she was 66.
Before that, Meeks served in the Florida state House of Representatives from 1979 to 1983 after having defeated 12 other candidates to win a seat in 1978. She then became the first Black woman elected to the Florida Senate, where she served from 1983 to 1993.
In Congress, Meeks focused on economic development, health care reform and immigration issues important to her district. She became a member of the House Appropriations Committee in her first term.
Meek’s “soft southern accent and grandmotherly demeanor often concealed her ambitious and determined agenda” in Congress, according to her congressional biography.
In 2002, Meeks announced that she planned to retire after five terms in Congress.
In a statement, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava honored Meek’s legacy.
She was a “true trailblazer,” Levine Cava said. “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.”
Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, a political strategist and CNN commentator, tweeted, “The marvelous, inimitable, #carriemeek has died. She broke too many glass-ceilings to mention. If you knew her, you know she was spectacular. I loved her so much. She was so full of wisdom. Condolences to @KendrickMeek and her entire family. She was quite the matriarch.”