Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, who faced adversity as a public servant, has died. He was 84.
Hastings was a persistent voice against racial injustice as a civil rights lawyer. He later became a federal judge who was impeached and removed from office before going on to win 15 consecutive congressional elections.
As Florida’s most senior member of Congress, Hastings served as a member of the US House of Representatives for Florida’s 23rd congressional district from 1993 to 2013 and Florida’s 20th congressional district from 2013 until his death.
His death was confirmed in a statement from his family.
In 2018, Hastings was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. For much of the past two years, he fought gracefully while continuing to make public appearances between treatments. And in the past month had reportedly been in hospice care.
“Alcee was a fighter, and he fought this terrible disease longer than most. He faced it fearlessly, and at times even made fun of it,” said Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness.
As a young lawyer, Hastings moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1964 to join a law firm owned by W. George Allen. When he arrived in South Florida, every motel in town refused to rent him a room.
He spent much of the 60’s and 70’s fighting for the rights of Black people. The many civil rights cases filed by Hastings and Allen were against the establishment who failed to serve the black community even after desegregation.
In 1977, then-Gov. Reubin Askew appointed Hastings as a Broward Circuit Court Judge. Two years later, President Jimmy Carter nominated Hastings to the U.S. District Court, making him Florida’s first Black federal judge.
But that lifetime appointment lasted just a little over a decade.
In 1981, Hastings was indicted on charges of conspiring to solicit a $150,000 bribe from an FBI agent posing as a racketeer trying to buy his way out of a prison sentence.
In 1983, Hastings’ criminal trial ended when the jury found him not guilty. Although he was acquitted, Hastings faced impeachment three years later and removal from the bench for conspiring and falsifying evidence which acquitted him while the other defendant was found guilty soliciting bribes. The Senate did not vote to disqualify him from holding future office. Hastings denied knowledge of any bribery.
He staged a public comeback over the course of the next decade.
Three years after his conviction, Hastings was elected to the US House of Representatives, becoming one of three Black Floridians who went to Congress that year. It was the first time The Sunshine State had sent a Black representative to Washington in 116 years.
In a statement Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called Hastings, “a trusted voice in the intelligence community” and said he “leaves behind a powerful legacy of activism and action on behalf of Floridians and all Americans.”
“Hastings was known for saying what was on his mind, and not pulling punches or talking in the scripted, cautious, diplomatic style used by so many politicians,” according to Anthony Mann of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The longtime public servant will be remembered for his dedication to equality. While he didn’t have many major legislative accomplishments during his career in Washington, Hastings was a fighter for those without a voice.