Former Congresswoman Carrie Meek, who worked as both a state and federal civil servant for 24 years, passed away Sunday at the age of 95.
Meek, one of the first Black lawmakers to represent Florida in Congress since Reconstruction, was the granddaughter of an enslaved woman and was raised in segregated Florida by her parents, who were sharecroppers, according to her House of Representatives biography.
In college, Meek ran track and field while earning a bachelor's degree in biology and physical education from Florida A&M University in 1946. However, she was forced to enroll at a school out of state to earn her master's degree because Florida banned Black students from attending state graduate schools.
Following 30 years of teaching stints at Bethune Cookman University, Miami-Dade Community College, and her alma mater, she beat out 12 candidates in 1978 for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives, a position she held for four years before becoming a state senator. She was the first African-American woman elected to the senate and the first Black legislator to serve there in over a century, according to her biography.
"Her life experience is wrapped up in not only the skin she lives in, the gender that she was born with, and her struggle through segregation into integration as an educator, having to go the extra mile to get the kind of education that allowed her to be the outstanding teacher and leader that she became." Kendrick Meek, her youngest son, said of his mother. " I think it made her a better policymaker."
US Rep. William Lehman retired in 1992, clearing the way for Meek's first Congressional campaign at the age of 66. She would win and serve five terms on Capitol Hill.
After her retirement, Kendrick Meek ran for her seat in the House of Representatives, which he held from 2003 to 2011.