Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida has died after a years long battle with cancer according to his chief of staff Lale M. Morrison who confirmed the news with CNN on Tuesday. He was 84 years old.
News of Hastings’ death was first reported by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Hastings lived a life of controversy and redemption, appointed as the state’s first Black federal judge by former President Jimmy Carter in 1979. 10 years later Hastings was removed from the bench by the Senate after he was impeached on corruption charges, even though he was acquitted through a criminal trial.
Hastings appeared again in the political sphere in 1992, becoming Florida’s first Black congressman since after the Civil War. Hastings went on to be reelected 14 times.
In Congress however, he faced more accusations of misconduct when he was accused of sexual harassment and nepotism.
Hastings was one of Florida’s most senior, longest serving member in Congress, representing majority Black communities outside of Miami for almost three decades. As a lawmaker, Hastings was known for speaking what was on his mind. He was hailed as a progressive who pushed for affordable day care, universal heath care, family and medical leave, and advocated against the use of assault weapons.
In Congress he served as Vice Chairman of the House Rules Committee and was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Hastings scaled down his appearances after discovering he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in 2018.
He began his career as a civil rights lawyer in the south, defending Black people who were denied food service based on the color of their skin, and lead the charge to desegregate schools.
Hastings attended Fisk University, a historically Black college for undergrad and continued his education at “The Mecca,” Howard University. He eventually finished law school at another HBCU in his home state, Florida A&M, in 1963.
Due to Hastings’ death, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will determine when a special election will be held to fill his seat. The vacancy means House Democrats maintain a slim majority margin over the GOP, with 218-211.
“While we mourn the loss of our brother, his life and legacy will continue to be a part of our power and our message and will serve as a motivation for those who will follow in his footsteps – as leaders, fighters and advocates who represent the best of what our nation has to offer,” CBC Chairwoman Joyce Beatty said in a statement sent to NewsOne.
“Although there are no words to ease the sadness we are now feeling, there is solace in the remembrance of having been touched by such a giant. May his memory serve as a comfort to his loved ones and those who join us in mourning his passing. Rest well our dear brother…we’ll take it from here.”
Other prominent Black lawmakers who served with Hastings shared their grief on social media. Sending our condolences to Hastings’ family and loved ones at this difficult time.