Congresswoman Meek, who broke barriers throughout her historic political career, died peacefully at home surrounded by family.
By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
A statement about her legacy was provided to CNN by her children Lucia Davis-Raiford, Sheila Davis Kinui, and retired Rep. Kendrick B. Meek of Florida.
It read: “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. 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. 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.”
Meek’s death came after a “lengthy illness,” family spokesperson Adam Sharon said in a statement describing the late Florida Democrat’s “trailblazing” life and legacy.
Meek was born in Tallahassee, Florida in 1926, according to her congressional biography. After serving as Miami-Dade Community College’s first Black professor, associate dean and assistant to the vice president, Meek beat out 12 other candidates when she ran for the Florida state House in 1978.
She began her trailblazing political career, representing Florida’s 17th Congressional District as a Democratic Florida State House Representative.
In Congress, Meek was a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee and worked to secure $100 million in aid to rebuild Dade County as the area recovered from Hurricane Andrew.
She retired in 2002 and shifted her focus to the Carrie Meek Foundation, which she founded in November 2001, to provide the Miami-Dade community with much-needed resources, opportunities, and jobs. Meek spearheaded the Foundation’s daily operations until 2015 when she stepped down due to declining health.
Before entering politics, Meek worked as a teacher and administrator at Miami-Dade College. She was elected to the Florida House in 1978, succeeding pioneer Black legislator Gwen Cherry, who had been killed in an auto accident.
Carrie Pittman was born to Willie and Carrie Pittman in Tallahassee on April 29, 1926, and was the youngest of 12 children. Her father worked in nearby fields as a sharecropper and her mother took in laundry from white families.
She graduated from Florida A&M University in 1946 with a degree in biology and physical education. The university named its building for Black History archives in her honor in 2007. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
She accepted a position at Bethune Cookman College as an instructor and became the institution’s first female basketball coach. In 1958, she returned to Florida A&M as an instructor in health and physical education. She held that position until 1961.
Meek continued her teaching career at Miami Dade Community College as the first Black professor, associate dean, and assistant to the Vice President from 1961 to 1979.
Meek would go on to leverage her career in state government into a successful US House campaign in 1992.
Alcee Hastings and Corrine Brown joined Meek in January 1993 as the first Black Floridians to serve in Congress since Reconstruction as the state’s districts had been redrawn by the federal courts in accordance with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
On her first day in Congress, Meek reflected that while her grandmother, a slave on a Georgia farm, could never have dreamed of such an accomplishment, her parents told her that anything was possible.
“They always said the day would come when we would be recognized for our character,” she told The Associated Press in an interview that day.
Janet Taylor, the first Black Commissioner in Clewiston, FL said this, “Congresswoman Meeks was my Shero and a dynamic mentor to me as a Commissioner. She equipped me with all the knowledge and tools I needed to have to be an effective servant for the communities we represented. Her legacy speaks volume to service to our people. You now have well deserved Eternal Peace, Congresswoman Meeks.”
In Congress, Meek advocated for affirmative action, financial opportunities for the poor and efforts to strengthen democracy and relax immigration restrictions on Haiti, home to many of her constituents.
She also was known for her liberal opinions, down-home yet compelling speechmaking that made Republicans cringe.
“The last Republican that did something for me was Abraham Lincoln,” she told the state delegation to the 1996 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
The late civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis referred to her enormous strength and legislative styles as a tugboat. ‘’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 ran successfully for her House seat and held it for four terms.
Following her congressional career, Meek moved her attention to the Carrie Meek Foundation, which worked to provide the Miami-Dade community with jobs and opportunities, according to the statement provided by Sharon. She ran the foundation’s operations until 2015 when “declining health” forced her step down.
On Sunday evening when the news of her death was made known, expression of support brought some relief to the family.
Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, who succeeded Rep. Kendrick Meek, a friend, mentee and a phototype of Carrie Meek’s character.
“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… on how to navigate the jungle of racism, discrimination and equality in Florida,” Wilson wrote.
She continued: “Carrie Meek was a sweet, sweet spirit that permeated our community for many years. Her presence in a room spoke volumes for generations yet unborn. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
“As members of Mount Tabor Baptist Church, Congresswoman Meek was not only my Sister in Christ but Delta Soror as well. With her sweet, sweet spirit, she was indeed a trailblazer, an inspiration to many and always exemplified the essence of a true Delta with her unwavering commitment to public service. Her legacy will benefit generations to come. Job well done Congresswoman Meek,” stated Renée S. Jones a Delta and a church member.
Bertha Henry, Broward County Administrator and one of the thousands of mentees under the leadership of Congresswoman Meek said, “Mrs. Meek put the “M” in mentoring. She could see potential in you long before you could. Once you became a member of her tribe, she and her cohorts – old school Black Women of valor – would extract that potential by any means necessary. Her advocacy for her community was unwavering and she knew the importance of building the infrastructure for new generations of advocates to thrive. She deserves her rest – sleep on my sister.”
Meek was always inspiring young and seasoned politicians as well as ambitious leaders alike, so noted in the following reflections:
“The Congresswoman did her work. Tireless, steadfast and undaunted when it came to fighting for people of color and her unapologetically no nonsense approach as she fought for equality for women.
The Congresswoman was quick to remind me, “Mandy, the enemy sleeps in shifts.” Therefore, remain vigilant as you work on issues that protect freedom and economic opportunities for all Americans.
I am grateful for her courage and dedication.
It is upon her shoulders that I stand.”—Mandy Dawson-Bethune, Former Member of the Florida Senate
“I stood on her shoulders and walked the path which she forged for me in the Florida Legislature. She championed bills and issues that truly proved that Black Lives Matter before it became a rallying cry and a slogan. Legislation dealing with Black mortality rates, criminal justice equality and Brownfields clean up have saved thousands of lives and will continue to impact many generations of Floridians. — Christopher L. Smith, Former Member of the Florida Senate
“During some of the most formative years in my career and womanhood Carrie Pittman-Davis Meek was my mentor, my “oldest friend”, my bargain shopping buddy, the grandmother to my only godson, my cheerleader, my confidant, my Soror, my teacher. She made time for those aspiring to be elected officials. She demonstrated through her words and deeds the meaning of true public service. One of her favorite quotes was “service is the price you pay for the space you occupy.”— Yolonda Cash Jackson
Tony Hill who along with Sen. Kendrick Meek forged a 24-hour sit-in at the Florida State Capitol after Gov. Jeb Bush agreed to slow his push to end affirmative action in state university admissions. Reminiscing on the strength that he and Kendrick needed, Hill fondly stated, “I will never ever forget her quote to me, after our sit-in 1999-2000, “you have a charge to keep and a God to Glorify…” I have never forgotten those words. Rest in Eternal Peace, Coach! Administrator! State Rep! State Senator! Congressman Carrie Pittman Meek.”
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.
A viewing will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday at Booker T. Washington Senior High School. On Dec. 6, relatives will hold an evening wake for Meek from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Miami Dade College’s North Campus in the William and Joan Lehman Theater. Meek’s funeral and homegoing celebration will be on Dec. 7 at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church’s Miami Gardens Campus at 21311 NW 34th Ave. The service will be led by Pastor Arthur Jackson III at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to The Carrie Meek Foundation, Inc. at 4000 NW 142nd St. in Opa-Locka.
Portions of this story came from other news sources