Pioneering civil rights activist and Florida congressman Alcee Hastings has passed away. He was 84 years old.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel first reported his passing early Tuesday (April 6.). According to CNN, Hastings, the longest-serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation revealed he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2018.
Hastings, who continued to serve in Congress while undergoing treatment, calling it “a battle worth fighting,” first served in the US House of Representatives in 1993.
Known as a liberal advocate for women, people of color, immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community, long before it was popular, Hastings was born Sept. 5, 1936, in Altamonte Springs, Florida. He started out in life as the son of a maid and a butler, but went on to become the first Black person to hold a federal judgeship in the state of Florida since Reconstruction.
President Joe Biden called Hastings “a trailblazing lawyer” whom he admired for his “singular sense of humor, and for always speaking the truth bluntly and without reservation.”
In a statement, the Congressional Black Caucus described Hastings as “a pioneer and leading voice in the fight for civil and voting rights.”
Members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, offered heartfelt condolences while expressing their sadness over Hastings’ passing.
“As an icon of the Congressional Black Caucus, he was an historic force in our nation’s politics,” Pelosi said. “His passing is a great loss for America.”
Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings took to Twitter to offer her words of sympathy and provide further insight into how Hastings “changed the face of politics in Florida.”
Hastings career was not without controversy. He was once accused of soliciting a $150,000 bribe from two convicted racketeers trying to shorten their sentences for which he was later impeached from his role as judge in 1988. The impeachment was later reversed. He was also accused of sexual harassment by a former aide in 2011, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. He called the allegations “bizarre.”
With Hastings passing, a special election will be scheduled. The current House of Representatives count is 218 Democrats, while the Republicans total 211, reports Politico.
State Sen. Bobby Powell and Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, are reportedly interested in filling Hastings’ seat.