Groundbreaking Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings Dies at 84

Alcee Hastings (USA) at OSCE PA Autumn Meeting, Marrakech by oscepa is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida died on Tuesday morning at age 84, following several years of fighting pancreatic cancer. 

Hastings made waves as a civil rights leader and federal judge, going on to win 15 re-elections to Congress and become the most senior member of Congress from Florida.

Hastings was born in Altamonte Springs, Florida, about a 15 minute drive north of Orlando and he was first elected to Congress in 1993.  

Despite being diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2018, Hastings still occasionally went out in public and maintained a fighting spirit. 

“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,” recalled Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness.

Rep. Alcee Hastings visits Coast Guard by Coast Guard News is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

‘He was Passionate About Helping Our Nation Live Up To Its Full Promise’

President Joe Biden commented on Hastings’ passing, saying he was a truth-teller who had a great sense of humor and wanted every American to have equal opportunity.

“Alcee was outspoken because he was passionate about helping our nation live up to its full promise for all Americans. Across his long career of public service, Alcee always stood up to fight for equality, and always showed up for the working people he represented. And even in his final battle with cancer, he simply never gave up,” Biden said. 

Soon after becoming a lawyer, Hastings started working in Fort Lauderdale where he began working for the firm of W. George Allen. He frequently experienced racial discrimination and was part of various groundbreaking civil rights lawsuits as well as desegregation of Broward county’s education system. 

After an unsuccessful run for the US Senate in 1970, Hastings was appointed as a circuit judge in 1977 and went on to rise to the US District Court in 1979 after being appointed by President Jimmy Carter. This position went sour, however, after he was charged with trying to accept a $150,000 bribe for someone who wanted to get out of jail (but was actually an FBI agent in disguise).

Hastings was found not guilty in 1983, but in 1989 it was determined he’d lied during his trial and he was removed as a circuit judge, striking down what should have been a lifetime appointment. 

It was a big disappointment for Hastings and would come to be a mark against him in his career, but he didn’t give up. 

A Successful Run for Congress

In 1993 Hastings successfully ran for Congress, the first Black member from Florida since 1877. He represented majority Black communities in Broward county and was focused on improving the life of residents as well as his beliefs on issues like being pro-LGBT and in foreign affairs where he was a particularly strong supporter of Israel. 

He tended to work from the side wings politically, especially through his role on the Rules Committee, and due to his past removal as a circuit judge was ultimately not chosen to head up the intelligence committee by Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the 2006 midterms.

Despite being on the opposite side of Republicans on many issues, Hastings is an example of the more up front kind of statesman who had respect for the legislative process and could be relied on to speak his mind fully and frankly at all times. Hastings wasn’t posturing about his beliefs or looking for credit, he really was “woke” at least in the pre-pink hair sense of the term.

Hastings is survived by his wife Patricia Williams and three grown up kids from a past marriage, namely Alcee “Jody” Hastings II, Chelsea Hastings and Leah Hastings, and his stepdaughter, Maisha Williams.

Florida flags will be flown at half mast in Hastings’ honor.