Alcee Hastings, pioneering civil rights activist, decide and politician, dies at 84

Alcee Hastings, civil rights crusade attorney, the first black federal judge in Florida and dean of the U.S. Congress delegation in Florida during a tumultuous career that took him from the segregated lunch tables of the deep south to Capitol Hill, has died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer . He was 84 years old.

Hastings, fierce, eloquent, witty and loved by his constituents, has been re-elected to the US House of Representatives 15 times since he first took office in 1992, and the US Senate Federal Bank in a bribery case that Hasting had previously beaten in a criminal court.

Hastings first represented the northern counties of Miami-Dade and Broward in District 23, and since the Congressional boundaries were re-established in 2012, he represented District 20 in Palm Beach County. Despite some ethical controversy along the way, he became Florida’s longest serving member of Congress on his death and remained a staunch advocate for the Democratic Party cause.

“I believed this was a battle worth fighting and my life has been marked by battles worth fighting,” said Hastings when he was diagnosed with cancer in January 2019 . His longtime colleague and girlfriend, US Representative Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat confirmed his death Tuesday morning.

As a congressman, Hastings was a heavy critic of President Donald Trump and voted twice to indict him. Despite his seniority and excellent process skills, he was never in the limelight and asked questions. It was because of his own past, he said.

“There is no way in the world that I would be on an impeachment panel,” he said. “All the talk would be how I was charged.”

Worked through illness

Hasting tried to come to terms with his illness. However, in early January he missed the January 3 roll-call vote to re-elect Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and voted on the Republican challenges in the election of President Joe Biden. In a statement, he said he would stay in Florida on the advice of doctors but tweeted his support for Biden before pro-Trump rioters flooded the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Since then, on January 8th, Hastings introduced the Build America Act of 2021, which is expected to add $ 10 billion annually to government infrastructure grant programs. The bill would expand funding for roads, bridges and public transport “so we can start making the infrastructure investments our country so desperately needs,” said Hastings.

Hastings was born in Altamonte Springs and was the only son of a housemaid and butler.

As an activist, he was jailed in a dozen civil rights meetings and demonstrations in the 1950s and 1960s. Still, he was expelled from Howard University Law School for lack of “seriousness of purpose” before graduating from Florida A&M University.

As a young attorney in Fort Lauderdale, he and his partner W. George Allen, often in collaboration with the NAACP, filed lawsuits against restaurants, hotels, and government agencies such as the Broward County School District in an attempt to enforce desegregation.

In 1966, after rioting broke out in Pompano Beach, Hastings was widely cited for explaining why race riots raged across the country.

“Because no matter what they tell you, not everything is okay in the colored city,” he said 55 years ago. “When people live in misery and seething desperation, with poor housing, wretched, menial jobs and inferior schools, you have exactly the same situation as in Watts.”

In 1970, Hastings became the first Black Floridian to run for the US Senate. He knew he was a long shot.

“This will help blacks overcome their inferiority complex,” he said. “I think I will prove to both blacks and whites that a Negro candidate can be just as serious about taxes, protecting our environment, providing fast transportation and helpful programs for our seniors as any white candidate. ”

He lost – in fact, he lost the first eight races he ran – but gave blacks a political foundation to build on. He also raised his profile among state and national political leaders in the Democratic Party.

“We built credibility in this race,” he said. “We’ve proven that a black man can run for office across the country. A black man with money can probably win. “

In 1977, Governor Reubin Askew named Hastings a judge on the Broward County Circuit Court – the beginning of a meteoric legal career. Two years later, in 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed Hastings to the US District Court, making him the first black federal judge in Florida. For his swearing-in ceremony, he chose Fort Lauderdale’s Dillard High – a school he helped with the desegregation.

As a judge, the wise Hastings tensed his muscles to protect the poor and disenfranchised. He defied Ronald Reagan’s policies, calling the president “stupid” and “a dodo” and blocking an immigration and naturalization service order to deport Haitians.


But shortly after his pioneering appointment, he had problems with the law himself.

In 1981, Hastings was charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice for soliciting a $ 150,000 bribe in exchange for reducing the sentences of the Mafia-affiliated Romano brothers tried in Hastings’ court for embezzlement of 1 , $ 2 million from a Teamsters retirement fund had been fined.

William Borders, a Washington, DC-based attorney who was indicted alongside Hastings, was convicted of an FBI stabbing operation in 1982. Hastings was acquitted in a criminal court in 1983. Patricia Williams, who later became his chief of staff and wife, was his co-advisor throughout the process.

Despite the criminal acquittal, the House of Representatives voted 413-3 in 1988 to approve 17 impeachments against Hastings – including perjury, manipulation of evidence and conspiracy to accept bribes – the highest number of articles filed against any person to date were.

The US Senate convicted him on eight charges and ordered the removal of Hastings. The Justice Department said Hastings was the first seated federal judge to be charged with a crime and the first to be charged since 1936.

Hastings was kicked from the bank in 1989, eight years after his indictment.

“I’ve said it before for public consumption,” said Hastings. “In the time they spent examining me, they could have examined Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan and Hitler. I find it incomprehensible that this matter has lasted so long. “

Then, standing on the steps of the Capitol, the intrepid Hastings announced that he would run for governor of Florida. Instead, he ran for Foreign Minister and lost.

But it wasn’t long before the charismatic Hastings recovered and reinvented himself.

In 1992 he won a seat in Washington, DC to represent the newly created 23rd district. He joined the US house that indicted him and appeared to have doomed his career three years earlier. He’s been there ever since.

Even while he was gaining political influence, ethical questions swirled around Hasting and his inner circle.

Williams, his attorney at his trial, and later his girlfriend and wife, had problems with the Florida Bar. Hastings represented them as they battled overcharging and misuse of funds from a client’s trust fund. She was expelled from the Florida Supreme Court. Hastings immediately gave her a new job and appointed her to his congressional staff in 1993.

Their relationship came under scrutiny in November 2019 when the House Ethics Committee said they were investigating Hastings again. House rules prohibit members from having romantic relationships with aides or staff even though they are allowed to hire a spouse. After the committee found that Hastings and Williams had married nine months earlier, the investigation ended.

“During its review, the committee became aware that the Hastings representative has been married to the person employed in his congressional office since January 2019,” the committee said. Accordingly, Agent Hastings does not violate House Rule XXIII, Clause 18 (a), in that his terms do not apply to relationships between two married persons, and he does not violate the House Gift Rule, which allows members to accept gifts from relatives. “

The committee said it also reviewed Hastings’ conduct and nepotism compliance prior to his marriage to Williams and decided not to impose sanctions. Williams ‘daughter and his former attorney’s wife – both husband and wife were convicted of money laundering – also worked in Hastings’ office.

Hastings defended his position with Williams, who he believed was valuable as assistant district director for her expertise in immigration law.

“She worked with me from day one,” Hastings told the media. “It would be one thing if she didn’t work. But she works today and she kept working. There is absolutely no prohibition against it. Whatever it is, it has been looking like this for 25 years. “

Hastings had been controversial about interacting with another employee, but it was never found that he had violated the House’s ethical rules.

Treasury paid $ 220,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against Hastings in 2017, according to Roll Call publication. Not only did Hastings deny any improper conduct, he said he was not even aware of the compensation payment.

“I am outraged that tax dollars have been paid to Ms. Packer unnecessarily,” said Hastings of the 53-year-old Winsome Packer’s complaint, who accused him of making gross sexual comments, inappropriately touching her and persecuting her for sex. Packer was an employee of the Helsinki Commission, which was chaired by Hastings. A federal judge and the House Ethics Committee found no evidence to support her claims, but she received the settlement anyway.

None of the scandals affected Hastings’ popularity with the electorate. Since 1992 he has won re-election every two years by a large margin. five times he ran unhindered.

Despite his seniority, Hastings does not chair any congressional committees, but he is a powerful member of the House Rules Committee.

Hastings was also instrumental in setting the rules for the first Trump impeachment investigation.

“That man humiliated and humiliated the presidency,” Hastings said.

Details of the services were not immediately available.

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