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Meek, Carrie 1926–

Carrie Meek 1926

Congresswoman

A Tomboy in a Loving Family

A Teacher, a Mother, a Politician

Grandmother Freshman in Congress

Sources

On January 5, 1993, Carrie Meek became the U.S. congressional representative for Floridas 17th District. A former teacher and college administrator who entered politics in 1979, Meek has become the first African American to represent Florida in Congress since the days of post-Civil War Reconstruction. She served her freshman term at an age when most people are retired, and she has been described in the Orlando Sentinel as a 5-foot-5 dynamo seeming in perpetual motion, fast-stepping through the Capitol and Senate labyrinth to check in with colleagues, check on a scheduled meeting, schmooze here and laugh there, briefly, before moving on.

Meek is a liberal whose district includes parts of Miami and a region of Dade County ravaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She saw herself as a spokesperson for the people she represents and all those in desperate or reduced economic circumstances. As a state representative in Floridaand as a congresswomanMeek has advocated the causes of women, minorities, political refugees, the elderly, and the handicapped in an era when budget restrictions have reduced government assistance for social programs. She retired from politics in 2002.

Meek has never been satisfied to accept the status quo if she felt that things could be better. The daughter of a sharecropper, she earned a masters degree during a period in which universities in her home state would not admit blacks to graduate school. She demonstrated against segregation in the 1950s and became a champion of entitlement and minority set-aside programs in the 1980s. I have experienced extreme, rigid and very painful segregation and racism from childhood, she told Time. I dont see myself as a victimCarrie Meek is a fighter. The way she prepared for politics, she told the Miami Herald, was by excelling in organized sports. My sports background makes me a competitor, she said. Im not discouraged by losing; I know how to get back up.

A Tomboy in a Loving Family

Meek was born Carrie Pittman in 1926, the youngest of twelve children born to William and Carrie Pittman. Her family lived in a rented three-bedroom farmhouse near the fields that her father worked as a sharecropper. Her mother served as a domestic and took in laundry from white families in nearby Tallahassee. I

At a Glance

Born Carrie Pittman on April 29, 1926, m Tallahassee, FL; daughter of William (a sharecropper) and Carrie (a domestic) Pittman; divorced; children: Lucia, Sheila, Kendrick. Education: Florida A&M University, B.S., 1946; University of Michigan, M.S., 1948; additional study at Florida Atlantic University.

Career: Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, FL, instructor in health and physical education, 1949-58; Florida A&M University, instructor in health and physical education, 1958-61; Miami-Dade Community College, professor, 1961-68, associate dean for community services and assistant to the president, 1968-79, special assistant to the vice-president, beginning 1982; member of the Florida House of Representatives, Tallahassee, 1979-82; member of the Florida State Senate, Tallahassee, 1982-93; U.S. House of Representatives, congressional representative from Floridas 17th District (Dade County), 1993-02.

Member: League of Women Voters, National Organization of Women (NOW), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Urban League of Greater Miami, Dade County United Way (member of board).

Selected awards: Morris W. Milton, Sr., Political Achievement Award from Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, 1988; distinguished service award from Frontiers International Miami Club, 1988.

Address: Office 404 Cannon House Office Building, Independence Ave., Washington, DC 20515-0917.

was from a family of 12 and my mother made all our clothes, Meek told the Orlando Sentinel. We were poor, but we didnt know it.

The congresswoman remembers her childhood as quite happy. She was a tomboy who played with slingshots and swept the hard-dirt front yard with a homemade broom. Nicknamed tot by her older siblings, she cared for the family chickens and dreamed of becoming a veterinarian or a doctor. She also showed early signs of becoming a talented athlete. Meek recalled in the Miami Herald that her mother inspired us to really want to go to school. She used to tell me stories [about] how she came up, and how hard it was, but how much we could do. Further inspiration came from a paternal grandmother who had been born a slave and who lived to be over one hundred years old.

After graduating from high school, Meek attended the all-black Florida A&M University, where she earned a bachelors degree in biology and physical educationand varsity letters in track and fieldin 1946. She decided to become a schoolteacher, she told the Miami Herald, because that was about the only thing open to [black women] in those days. Denied admittance to graduate school in Florida because she was black, Meek sought and received state financial aid to attend the University of Michigan. There she received her masters degree in physical education and public health in 1948.

Meeks first teaching position was with Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida. I have been very fortunate in the people I have known, Meek told the Orlando Sentinel. I played basketball, just playing around you understand, at school with Althea Gibson, who went on to become the first black Wimbledon Tennis winner. And I worked for [the schools founder,] Mrs. [Mary McLeod] Bethune, in Daytona, who was a very regal woman. Mrs. Bethune was the first feminist I had a chance to know, only we didnt call it that back then. She brought Madame Nehru [of the clan of Indian political leaders] and [U.S. first lady] Eleanor Roosevelt to campus to speak to us and that made a big impression on me.

Also in Daytona, Meek met a man named Virgil Hawkins who was trying to gain admittance to law school at the University of Florida. His efforts to change the educational system in Florida were inspiring to Meek, and she began to participate in political activities. On one occasion in the 1950s she was sprayed with tear gas as she protested racism at the state capitol building in Tallahassee.

A Teacher, a Mother, a Politician

Life had its ups and downs for Meek. She spent about a dozen years teaching at Bethune-Cookman College and Florida A&M University, then moved to Miami-Dade Community College in 1961 as a professor and, later, associate dean of community service. Teaching was a rewarding and challenging career for her. What means most to me is to see some of the students I taught, who everyone else had destined to failure, come back as a whopping success, Meek told the Miami Herald. If I can brag on one thing, I can teach. On the other hand, her personal life was difficult, as she endured the pain of two divorces and raised three children as a single parent. Many times I didnt know how I was going to make a payment, she recalled. Just sometimes a tire blowing out or the car not starting one day can be a disaster when you dont have anyone.

Meeks responsibilities at Miami-Dade increased over the years she spent there in the 1960s and 1970s.

Hired initially to shape the womens athletic program, she was given more and more outreach duties in the local community. She worked as a dean of community service and also served as an assistant to the college president with special emphasis on literacy and publicaffairs programs. Her first brush with Florida politics came in the late 1960s when she became involved in the federal governments Model City program. Meek told the Miami Herald: I think I was only with the program for one year, but it gave me the focus for the rest of my life. Her political involvement escalated when she saw how the Model City money was spentand misspent. She got angry, she said, to see all the money that was spent in Dade County, and we didnt end up with bricks and mortar. We didnt end up with community ownership of nothing. She added: Now I know where [community empowerment] is at. Its in Tallahassee, its in Washington, and its with the local and municipal governments. Only government can bring equity to blacks.

With that in mind, Meek began to befriend Dade Countys Democratic politicians. Her entry into the political field came in 1979, when Dade Countys state representative Gwen Cherry was killed in an automobile accident. Meeks friends encouraged her to seek the seat in the special election, and despite her reservations she entered the race. After being told by a group of influential black businessmen that she did not have a chance of winning, Meek beat twelve opponents to gain the state congressional seat. Still she was apprehensive. I didnt know what my job would be, she remembered in the Miami Herald. But I figured if it meant articulating the needs of the people I had lived around, if it meant being a spokesman, I could do that.

Meek was re-elected to her seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 1980. In 1982 she ran for the state senate and won. She spent the 1980s as senator for District 36-Miamia true ground-breaking official. She was the first black woman ever elected to Floridas state senate. Her district comprised part of Dade County and a portion of the city of Miami. Her constituents were overwhelmingly Democratic and blackthe Miami Herald reported that of the 101,313 registered voters in the district, 90,253 were Democrats, 74,844 were black, 18, 193 were white, and 8,276 were Hispanic.

Meek established an agenda in Tallahassee that emphasized giving minorities an economic boost through set-aside programs and other legislation designed to generate opportunity. She led efforts to establish an affordable-housing program in Dade County and helped minority-and female-run businesses to get state contracts. Meeks liberal philosophy drew the fire of Republican senators from other, more prosperous, regions of Florida, but even her staunchest opponents applauded her diplomacy, her industriousness, and her forceful speaking ability. The oppositions opinion was perhaps best summed up by Florida state senator Dick Langley, who told the Palm Beach Post that Meek was absolutely, totally fiscally irresponsible. But she did a great job for her district in the Senate.

Meek became popular not only in her own senatorial district but far beyond it for her efforts to smooth the playing field so that all Floridians could prosper. In 1992 she decided to run for Congress in the 17th District. Her only opposition was in the primary, where she had to run against two black men. With the help of her well-known platform and her many friends in Florida politicsincluding a Republican state senator, Fred Dudleyshe won the primary by a staggering 83 percent margin, effectively claiming the congressional seat even before the November general election.

Grandmother Freshman in Congress

At the age of 67and a grandmotherMeek became a freshman congresswoman in the U.S. House of Representatives in January of 1993. Observers marvelled at her energy and determination, as well as her invitation to join the important House Appropriations Committee. In her first months as a member of Congress, Meek sought to secure more financial aid for families still recovering from Hurricane Andrew. She introduced legislation to facilitate employer payments of Social Security taxes for privately-hired nannies, and she drafted a bill that would ease immigration restrictions on Haitian refugees. President Clinton solicited her advicea rare opportunity for a new member of Congressas he attempted to trim the budget deficit without slashing social welfare programs.

Meek has said that the chance to help the people in Floridas poorest congressional district is a challenge that she welcomed every day. During her first months in Washington, D.C., she told the Orlando News/Sun Sentinel: I look around here and I think about, well, how much Congress has missed by not having me here. I think what a right I have to be here now, what a great right. She added: They missed having someone who understands the needs of poor people and women. And they missed having someone of my color and my creed, who has experienced most of the things that are currently on the table here. This is a traditional place but that will change.

Representative Meek has continually fought to pass bills for the poor and underserved. She helped to provide funding for low-income housing in her district. She was re-elected again in 1998.

Meek introduced legislation to give permanent residency status to all Haitians who entered the United States before January of 1996. She even accused the government of having a double standard at a rally in Washington. According to Jet, she stated, We cant have amnesty for Cubans, Nicaraguans and other Central Americans without amnesty for Haitians. She and Representative John Conyersboth members of the Congressional Black Caucusvisited Haiti to lend support and call for the removal of the U.S. veto on multilateral lending.

Though she spent the last two decades in public office, Meek decided to not seek a third term in Congress in 2002. She will use her time to create a foundation to work on educational and housing issues. Her decision surprised many. Her son, state senator Kendrick Meek, hopes to take her seat in Congress.

Sources

Atlanta Constitution, September 10, 1992, p. A-3.

Boston Globe, September 9, 1992, p. 12.

Ebony, January 1993, p. 30.

Essence, October 1992, p. 125, 127.

Jet, April 13, 1998, p. 4.

Miami Herald, April 28, 1983, p. D-1; June 23, 1991, p. C-3.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 8, 2002, p. 05.

News/Sun Sentinel (Orlando, FL), January 5, 1993, p. B-1; May 12, 1993, p. E-1.

Newsweek, November 2, 1992, p. 46.

New York Times, September 9, 1992, p. A-14.

Orlando Sentinel, April 7, 1992, p. 6.

Palm Beach Post Capital, September 18, 1992, p. A-1.

PR Newswire, February 22, 2002.

Mark Kram and Ashyia N. Henderson

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Meek, Carrie 1926–

Carrie Meek 1926

Member of U.S. Congress

A Tomboy in a Loving Family

A Teacher, a Mother, a Politician

Grandmother Freshman in the U.S. House of Representatives

Sources

On January 5, 1993, Carrie Meek became the U.S. congressional representative for Floridas 17th District. A former teacher and college administrator who entered politics in 1979, Meek has become the first African American to represent Florida in Congress since the days of post-Civil War Reconstruction. She is serving her freshman term at an age when most people are retired, and she has been described in the Orlando Sentinel. as a 5-foot-5 dynamo seeming in perpetual motion, fast-stepping through the Capitol and Senate labyrinth to check in with colleagues, check on a scheduled meeting, schmooze here and laugh there, briefly, before moving on.

Meek is a liberal whose district includes parts of Miami and a region of Dade County ravaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. She sees herself as a spokesperson for the people she represents and all those in desperate or reduced economic circumstances. As a state representative in Floridaand now a congresswomanMeek has advocated the causes of women, minorities, political refugees, the elderly, and the handicapped in an era when budget restrictions have reduced government assistance for social programs.

Meek has never been satisfied to accept the status quo if she felt that things could be better. The daughter of a sharecropper, she earned a masters degree during a period in which universities in her home state would not admit blacks to graduate school. She demonstrated against segregation in the 1950s and became a champion of entitlement and minority set-aside programs in the 1980s. I have experienced extreme, rigid and very painful segregation and racism from childhood, she told Time. I dont see myself as a victimCarrie Meek is a fighter. The way she prepared for politics, she told the Miami Herald, was by excelling in organized sports. My sports background makes me a competitor, she said. Im not discouraged by losing; I know how to get back up.

A Tomboy in a Loving Family

Meek was born Carrie Pittman in 1926, the youngest of twelve children born to William and Carrie Pittman. Her family lived in a rented three-bedroom farmhouse near the fields that her father worked as a sharecropper. Her mother served as a domestic and took in laundry from white families in nearby Tallahassee. I was from a family

At a Glance

Born Carrie Pittman, April 29, 1926, in Tallahassee, FL; daughter of William (a sharecropper) and Carrie (a domestic) Pittman; divorced; children: Lucia, Sheila, Kendrick. Education: Florida A&M University, B.S., 1946; University of Michigan, M.S., 1948; additional study at Florida Atlantic University.

Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, FL, instructor in health and physical education, 1949-58; Florida A&M University, instructor in health and physical education, 1958-61; Miami-Dade Community College, professor, 1961-68, associate dean for community services and assistant to the president, 1968-79, special assistant to the vice-president, beginning 1982. Member of the Florida House of Representatives, Tallahassee, 1979-82; member of the Florida State Senate, Tallahassee, 1982-93; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, congressional representative from Floridas 17th District (Dade County), 1993.

Member: League of Women Voters, National Organization of Women (NOW), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Urban League of Greater Miami, Dade County United Way (member of board).

Selected awards: Morris W. Milton, Sr., Political Achievement Award from Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, 1988; distinguished service award from Frontiers International Miami Club, 1988.

Addresses: Office 404 Cannon House Office Building, Independence Ave., Washington, DC 20515-0917.

of 12 and my mother made all our clothes, Meek told the Orlando Sentinel. We were poor, but we didnt know it.

The congresswoman remembers her childhood as quite happy. She was a tomboy who played with slingshots and swept the hard-dirt front yard with a homemade broom. Nicknamed tot by her older siblings, she cared for the family chickens and dreamed of becoming a veterinarian or a doctor. She also showed early signs of becoming a talented athlete. Meek recalled in the Miami Herald that her mother inspired us to really want to go to school. She used to tell me stories [about] how she came up, and how hard it was, but how much we could do. Further inspiration came from a paternal grandmother who had been born a slave and who lived to be over one hundred years old.

After graduating from high school, Meek attended the all-black Florida A&M University, where she earned a bachelors degree in biology and physical educationand varsity letters in track and fieldin 1946. She decided to become a schoolteacher, she told the Miami Herald, because that was about the only thing open to [black women] in those days. Denied admittance to graduate school in Florida because she was black, Meek sought and received state financial aid to attend the University of Michigan. There she received her masters degree in physical education and public health in 1948.

Meeks first teaching position was with Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida. I have been very fortunate in the people I have known, Meek told the Orlando Sentinel I played basketball, just playing around you understand, at school with Althea Gibson, who went on to become the first black Wimbledon Tennis winner. And I worked for [the schools founder,] Mrs. [Mary McLeod] Bethune, in Daytona, who was a very regal woman. Mrs. Bethune was the first feminist I had a chance to know, only we didnt call it that back then. She brought Madame Nehru [of the clan of Indian political leaders] and [U.S. first lady] Eleanor Roosevelt to campus to speak to us and that made a big impression on me.

Also in Daytona, Meek met a man named Virgil Hawkins who was trying to gain admittance to law school at the University of Florida. His efforts to change the educational system in Florida were inspiring to Meek, and she began to participate in political activities. On one occasion in the 1950s she was sprayed with tear gas as she protested racism at the state capitol building in Tallahassee.

A Teacher, a Mother, a Politician

Life had its ups and downs for Carrie Meek. She spent about a dozen years teaching at Bethune-Cookman College and Florida A&M University, then moved to Miami-Dade Community College in 1961 as a professor and, later, associate dean of community service. Teaching was a rewarding and challenging career for her. What means most to me is to see some of the students I taught, who everyone else had destined to failure, come back as a whopping success, Meek told the Miami Herald. If I can brag on one thing, I can teach. On the other hand, her personal life was difficult, as she endured the pain of two divorces and raised three children as a single parent. Many times I didnt know how I was going to make a payment, she recalled. Just sometimes a tire blowing out or the car not starting one day can be a disaster when you dont have anyone

Meeks responsibilities at Miami-Dade increased over the years she spent there in the 1960s and 1970s. Hired initially to shape the womens athletic program, she was given more and more outreach duties in the local community. She worked as a dean of community service and also served as an assistant to the college president with special emphasis on literacy and public-affairs programs. Her first brush with Florida politics came in the late 1960s when she became involved in the federal governments Model City program. Meek told the Miami Herald: I think I was only with the program for one year, but it gave me the focus for the rest of my life. Her political involvement escalated when she saw how the Model City money was spentand misspent. She got angry, she said, to see all the money that was spent in Dade County, and we didnt end up with bricks and mortar. We didnt end up with community ownership of nothing. She added: Now I know where [community empowerment] is at. Its in Tallahassee, its in Washington, and its with the local and municipal governments. Only government can bring equity to blacks.

With that in mind, Meek began to befriend Dade Countys Democratic politicians. Her entry into the political field came in 1979, when Dade Countys state representative Gwen Cherry was killed in an automobile accident. Meeks friends encouraged her to seek the seat in the special election, and despite her reservations she entered the race. After being told by a group of influential black businessmen that she did not have a chance of winning, Meek beat twelve opponents to gain the state congressional seat. Still she was apprehensive. I didnt know what my job would be, she remembered in the Miami Herald. But I figured if it meant articulating the needs of the people I had lived around, if it meant being a spokesman, I could do that.

Meek was re-elected to her seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 1980. In 1982 she ran for the state senate and won. She spent the 1980s as senator for District 36-Miamia true ground-breaking official. She was the first black woman ever elected to Floridas state senate. Her district comprised part of Dade County and a portion of the city of Miami. Her constituents were overwhelmingly Democratic and blackthe Miami Herald reported that of the 101,313 registered voters in the district, 90,253 were Democrats, 74,844 were black, 18, 193 were white, and 8,276 were Hispanic.

Meek established an agenda in Tallahassee that emphasized giving minorities an economic boost through set-aside programs and other legislation designed to generate opportunity. She led efforts to establish an affordable-housing program in Dade County and helped minority-and female-run businesses to get state contracts. Meeks liberal philosophy drew the fire of Republican senators from other, more prosperous, regions of Florida, but even her staunchest opponents applauded her diplomacy, her industriousness, and her forceful speaking ability. The oppositions opinion was perhaps best summed up by Florida state senator Dick Langley, who told the Palm Beach Post that Meek was absolutely, totally fiscally irresponsible.But she did a great job for her district in the Senate.

Meek became popular not only in her own senatorial district but far beyond it for her efforts to smooth the playing field so that all Floridians could prosper. In 1992 she decided to run for U.S. Congress in the 17th District. Her only opposition was in the primary, where she had to run against two black men. With the help of her well-known platform and her many friends in Florida politicsincluding a Republican state senator, Fred Dudleyshe won the primary by a staggering 83 percent margin, effectively claiming the congressional seat even before the November general election.

Grandmother Freshman in the U.S. House of Representatives

At the age of 67and a grandmotherMeek became a freshman congresswoman in the U.S. House of Representatives in January of 1993. Observers marvelled at her energy and determination, as well as her invitation to join the important House Appropriations Committee. In her first months as a member of Congress, Meek sought to secure more financial aid for families still recovering from Hurricane Andrew. She introduced legislation to facilitate employer payments of Social Security taxes for privately-hired nannies, and she drafted a bill that would ease immigration restrictions on Haitian refugees. President Clinton solicited her advicea rare opportunity for a new member of Congressas he attempted to trim the budget deficit without slashing social welfare programs.

Meek has said that she does not plan to retire soon, that the chance to help the people in Floridas poorest congressional district is a challenge that she welcomes every day. During her first months in Washington, D.C., she told the Orlando News/Sun Sentinel: I look around here and I think about, well, how much Congress has missed by not having me here. I think what a right I have to be here now, what a great right. She added: They missed having someone who understands the needs of poor people and women. And they missed having someone of my color and my creed, who has experienced most of the things that are currently on the table here.This is a traditional placebut that will change.

Sources

Atlanta Constitution, September 10, 1992, p. A-3.

Boston Globe, September 9, 1992, p. 12.

Ebony, January 1993, p. 30.

Essence, October 1992, p. 125, 127.

Miami Herald, April 28, 1983, p. D-l; June 23, 1991, p. C-3.

News/Sun Sentinel (Orlando, FL), January 5, 1993, p. B- 1; May 12, 1993, p. E-l.

Newsweek, November 2, 1992, p. 46.

New York Times, September 9, 1992, p. A-14.

Orlando Sentinel, April 7, 1992, p. 6.

Palm Beach Post, September 18, 1992, p. A-l.

Mark Kram

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Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

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  • Chicago
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"Meek, Carrie 1926–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Meek, Carrie 1926–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/meek-carrie-1926

"Meek, Carrie 1926–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/meek-carrie-1926