FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, who made history during his career, died Tuesday at the age of 84.
“It is with profound sadness and the deepest sense of loss that we announce the passing of the Honorable Alcee L. Hastings. He lived a life of triumph over adversity and his brilliance and compassion was felt amongst his constituents, colleagues, the nation and the world. He lived a full life with an indelible fighting spirit dedicated to equal justice. He believed that progress and change can only be achieved through recognizing and respecting the humanity of all mankind. He was never afraid to speak his mind and truly loved serving his constituents and his family,” said Hastings’ family in a statement.
Hastings was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2018. In recent days, he had been in hospice care,” according to the Sun-Sentinel.
First elected in 1992, Hastings served 15 consecutive terms in Congress, he represented District 20 which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties. He was the first African-American to represent Florida in Congress since the post-Civil War period.
Hastings was the longest-serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation. He was re-elected in 2020 with nearly 79 percent of the vote.
“Congressman Alcee Hastings was more than a colleague; he was a dear friend of mine and my family. Along with Carrie Meek and Corrine Brown, he was the first African-American from Florida to serve in Congress after more than 100 years. As the Dean of the Florida Delegation, Alcee dedicated his life to helping others. His brilliance, perseverance, and charisma allowed him to build a lasting and meaningful legacy,” said Democratic Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart in a statement.
“With Alcee Hastings’s passing, Florida has lost one of its most preeminent and passionate public servants. As a congressman, Hastings was a tireless advocate for his constituents and for fighting against civil rights injustices, and the decades he spent representing our state in the House were an inspiration to all members of the Florida congressional delegation,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio in a statement.
Born in Altamonte Springs, he attended Florida’s public schools and graduated from Fisk University in 1958. He earned his law degree from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
After receiving his degree, Hastings moved to Fort Lauderdale and partnered with W. George Allen in 1964 where he fought against racial injustice. They took on civil rights cases and desegregating Broward schools, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Hastings was appointed by then-Gov. Reubin Askew to be a Broward Circuit Court judge in 1977.
Two years later, Hastings became the first African-American federal judge in the State of Florida. He was appointed by former President Jimmy Carter and served in that position for 10 years until he was impeached and removed from office.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear friend, colleague, and fellow Fiskite, Congressman Alcee Hastings. He was the first African-American man from Florida to be elected to Congress. He was a giant freedom fighter for the lost and left out, especially black communities. He feared no man, he feared no institution and was not shy about voicing his dissent on any issue,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson.
“Leading a life of public service, Congressman Alcee Hastings has left his beloved state of Florida better than he found it. Congressman Hastings broke barriers as he fought to advance civil rights as the first Black Federal Judge in the State of Florida and first Black Congressperson to represent Florida since the Civil War,” said Florida Senator Lauren Book in a statement.
“I’m heartbroken at the passing of my dear friend, Alcee Hastings. I had the honor of working side by side with Alcee for more than a decade, seeing first-hand his passion and drive for standing up to injustice and fighting for our community,” said Democratic Ted Deutch in a statement. “Alcee spoke up for the quiet voices that would otherwise go unheard. He never backed down from a fight for the people he represented and anyone else who needed defending.”
Throughout his career, Hastings championed the rights of minorities, women, the elderly, children, and immigrants.
“South Florida lost a dedicated public servant and a lifelong fighter for civil rights and social justice with the passing of longtime Congressman Alcee Hastings. I offer my deepest condolences to the Hastings family who are mourning his loss. He was a fierce advocate for his community and the greater South Florida area and his voice will be missed dearly,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
“For my entire life, he championed equity and civil rights for communities of color, women, seniors, and children, first on the bench and later in Congress. Over the last nine years, I had the pleasure to work with the Congressman as a partner on the state level, and I’m confident his impact will be felt for years to come,” said Florida Senator Shervin Jones in a statement.
“Indeed he’s a giant. The congressman has served us for almost thirty years in Congress. Prior to that he served 10 years as a judge. But even before that he was a leader fighting for eqality, for justice, for opportunity, and for what is right for the people of Florida. He ran for the Senate against Lawton Chiles at an early stage where folks never thought that a Black person would even have the audacity to do so. That’s how audacious he was, he feared nothing,” said former Broward Mayor and current county commissioner Dale Holness.
In addition to his fight for rights domestically, Hastings is the immediate past Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Commonly referred to as the Helsinki Commission, this independent U.S. government agency was created in 1976 to monitor and encourage compliance with the landmark human rights and democracy-building treaty signed in Finland the previous year.
“Florida has lost a brilliant, fearless, giant-hearted advocate for this state that he dearly loved, and Congress has lost a wise, patient and compassionate statesman. I have lost a treasured friend and true mentor, someone I constantly leaned on for sage counsel,” said Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “Alcee Hastings’ life was devoted to righting wrongs and he wasn’t afraid to use a little shame to press for change. From the halls of Congress to Broward County and as far as the Parliamentary Assembly in Europe, Congressman Hastings leaves an immense political legacy.”
Under Florida law, Gov. Ron DeSantis will call a special election in the coming months to fill the District 20 vacancy.