Carrie P. Meek, American lawmaker who made racial history, dies at 95

Carrie P. Meek, who was sparked by memories of discrimination as a child and inspired by her heritage as she rose to political power in ...


Carrie P. Meek, who was sparked by memories of discrimination as a child and inspired by her heritage as she rose to political power in her native Florida and later in Washington, died Sunday at her Miami home. She was 95 years old.

His death was confirmed by Adam Sharon, a spokesperson for the family. He did not specify a cause.

In 1992, Ms. Meek became the first black person elected to Congress in Florida since Reconstruction. His election was practically assured after the 10 terms of the Democratic president, Bill lehman, has decided to retire. She won the Democratic nomination for their recently redistributed South Florida district and ran unopposed in the general election.

Ms. Meek quickly made it clear that she had no desire to go the “go and get along” path some newcomers to Washington have followed. She lobbied for and won a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee, a highly unusual achievement for a first-year lawmaker.

She used the seat to appeal for federal help from the section of her district devastated by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She also lobbied for money for job creation programs and to encourage Afro- Americans to open their own businesses.

“My first priority in Congress is to develop programs that create jobs,” she said in an interview with the Washington Post a few weeks after her election. “Whenever I’m in the community people start by saying ‘Carrie, what about jobs, when are we going to get jobs?’ “

Its 17th congressional district covered much of Miami and its constituents included many blacks and immigrants from Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas, as well as Koreans and Arabs. The neighborhood included Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, the epicenter of a race riot that left dozens dead after white police killed a black man. Ms. Meek lived in Liberty City during her time in Congress.

While pushing for money for her district, she remained skeptical, even cynical, about many of Washington’s programs aimed at helping poor black people. She complained that too much money was embezzled by white-owned companies who then bailed out programs when federal dollars ran out. She also despised certain black administrators (“ghetto scammers,” she called them) who operated programs while doing little to help those in need.

After the Republicans captured the House in November 1994, Ms. Meek was ousted from the Appropriations Committee. She quickly attacked new lecturer Newt Gingrich of Georgia for accepting a $ 4.5 million advance for two books from a publishing house owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

After much criticism, some from fellow Republicans, Mr. Gingrich announced at the end of December that he gave up in advance. But Ms. Meek still got hold of the episode.

“The speaker’s salary depends much more on how strongly his publishing house sells his book,” she said upstairs. “What brings me to the question of who does this speaker really work for? She continued, “Is it the American people or their New York publishing house?”

Republicans booed her and struck her remarks from the Congressional Record.

Ms. Meek denounced the tax cuts the Republican-controlled House approved in June 1997, saying Republicans were trying to balance the budget “on the backs of working poor Americans, the elderly and the infirm.”

“Today the House voted to rob the poor so that tomorrow the majority can help the rich,” she said.

She was ready to go across the aisle on some issues. For example, she worked with Republicans to change warnings on cigarette labels to reflect the fact that more blacks than whites suffered from smoking-related illnesses. She has also worked with some Republicans to increase spending on lupus disease research and grants for students with poor reading skills due to learning disabilities.

Prior to coming to Washington, Ms. Meek served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1979 to 1983 and the State Senate from 1983 to 1993. She was the first black woman elected to this chamber.

Richard Langley, a conservative Republican senator whose policies were the opposite of his own, once called Ms. Meek a “kind, well-meaning Christian lady.” But a moment later, as if regretting her kind remarks, he called her “another tax and spendthrift liberal” and a big mouth.

“If you opposed her, you were a racist,” Langley told the Washington Post. “She saw it all in terms of black and white.”

If indeed she saw the world that way, she would have had good reasons.

Carrie Pittman was born on April 29, 1926 in Tallahassee, Florida, the youngest of 12 children to Willie and Carrie Pittman. Her parents started their life together as sharecroppers. His father was later a caretaker and his mother a laundromat and owner of a boarding house. A grandmother, known as Miss Mandy, had been a slave in Lilly, Georgia.

Years later, Ms Pittman said growing up as a baby in her family was “just a good life, the best you can imagine.”

“The only shadow in my life was segregation,” she said. “The worst of segregation. This meant not being allowed to try on shoes in a shoe store and play with other black children in a vacant lot while the white children had a park with ball fields and a swimming pool.

Ms. Meek was a high school sprinter and played basketball in both high school and Florida A&M, a historically black college in Tallahassee, where she graduated in biology and physical education in 1946.

At the time, black students were banned from graduate programs in Florida. So she enrolled at the University of Michigan, where she obtained a master’s degree in public health and physical education.

Prior to entering politics, Ms. Meek taught at Bethune Cookman, a historically black university in Daytona Beach, and Florida A&M. In 1961, she moved to the brand new Miami-Dade Junior College, which initially had separate campuses for black and white students. She taught health and physical education and remained in college for three decades in teaching and administrative positions.

In 2000, the presidential race remained undecided for weeks after election day due to the excruciatingly tight popular vote in Florida. Ms. Meek complained that many African-Americans and Haitian-Americans among her constituents tried to vote but were turned down. Some were told they did not have valid ID, while others said they felt intimidated, Ms Meek said.

“These are frustrated black people who worked so hard for the right to vote, they died for the right to vote,” Ms. Meek said. “And we saw a presidential election here where people were denied that right, through intimidation. Some Haitians say it’s worse than an election in Haiti. What kind of superpower has an election like this? “

Ultimately, George W. Bush won the presidency over Vice President Al Gore when the United States Supreme Court suspended the popular vote recount in Florida, giving Mr. Bush the 25 Electoral College votes. Florida.

Ms Meek’s two former husbands, from whom she divorced, have died. Survivors include a son, Kendrick, who served in the Florida House of Representatives and the State Senate and was elected in 2002 to the Congressional seat vacated by his mother. He served four terms before relinquishing his seat in an unsuccessful race for the Senate.

She is also survived by two daughters, Sheila Davis Kinui and Lucia Davis-Raiford; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Announcing in 2002 that she would not run for a sixth term, Meek stressed that she had never grown tired of Congress.

“I still love him,” she told the Miami Herald. “But at 76, naturally, some of my abilities have diminished. I don’t have the same vigor as at 65. I have the fire, but I do not have the physical capacity. It is therefore time.

David Stout, reporter and editor of the New York Times for 28 years, died in 2020. Vimal Patel contributed reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Carrie P. Meek, American lawmaker who made racial history, dies at 95
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