During her stay in the House of Representatives Carrie P. Meek of Florida was an often powerful player behind the scene, but in her congressional district in Florida she was a resolute force demanding a share of apportionments for her constituents in the Miami-Dade County district. Meek, 95, died Sunday at her home in Miami, after a long illness.

The late John Lewis, who served for many years with Meek, once cited that “We see showboats and we see tugboats. She’s a tugboat,” he said of Meek. “I never want to be on the side of issues against her.”

Nor were there others who dared face off against her when she set her mind and voice to a particular bill or issue.

“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 said. “On the Appropriations Committee where we both served, she was a force, bringing to bear the special power of her soft accent and strong will for her community and country. Indeed, she was formidable in meeting the needs of her community, including by advocating for Haitian immigrants and refugees and creating economic opportunities for working families in her district.”

She was 66 when she won the 1992 Democratic congressional primary in her Miami-Dade County district and later ran unopposed in the general election race. A descendant of a slave, she became one of the first Black Floridians elected to Congress since Reconstruction. As a child her parents told her anything was possible, and she recalled their encouragement after her victory in 1992: “They always said the day would come when we would be recognized for our character,” she told the press.

Meek was a tireless advocate for affirmative action, Haitian immigrants, and general economic opportunities for the underserved. Many of her successes on these endeavors occurred during her membership on the House Appropriations Committee, particularly her work securing $100 million in aid to rebuild Dade County as it recovered from Hurricane Andrew that raged through the region in the summer of 1992.

Her fellow Floridian in the House, the late Alcee Hastings, often celebrated her life and career, noting, “Only in America can the granddaughter of a slave and the daughter of a former sharecropper believe she can achieve and conquer all that presents itself in opposition to her dreams,” he said in 2003. Hastings, who died in April, insisted that Meek “set the stage and perpetuated the legacy of political astuteness for all of us, but particularly for African American women everywhere.”

“At her core, she was an educator and I’m thankful for all that I learned from her,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks.

Meek was indeed a prominent educator, the first Black professor at Miami-Dade Community College, and a state senator before winning a congressional seat, which she held for six terms before declining to run in 2002. Her son, Kendrick, won the seat and held it for four terms until 2010.

Along with her son, she is survived by her daughters Lucia-Davis-Raiford and Sheila Davis Kinui, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

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