Alcee Hastings remembered for standing up to injustice, fighting for his community

‘I greatly admired him’ President Joe Biden says

Broward County commissioners and fellow Congressmen remember Alcee Hastings, who died Tuesday at 84 after battling pancreatic cancer.

TAMARAC, Fla. – South Florida is mourning the death of longtime U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings, who died Tuesday after battling pancreatic cancer.

Hastings, who represented parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties in District 20, was recognized in separate commission meetings in each county Tuesday.

“This morning I lost a great friend, a giant of a man, a fearless fighter for justice and the equality and the opportunity for all people,” said Broward Commissioner Dale Holness. “Congressman Hastings was a voice for those without a voice.”

President Joe Biden shared a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying:

“I had the privilege of getting to know Alcee Hastings during the years when he served in the House of Representatives and I served in the United States Senate and later as Vice President. I greatly admired him for his singular sense of humor, and for always speaking the truth bluntly and without reservation. A trailblazing lawyer who grew up in the Jim Crow South, Alcee was outspoken because he was passionate about helping our nation live up to its full promise for all Americans. It was a passion he forged as a pioneering civil rights lawyer in the 1960s, fighting tirelessly to desegregate hotels, restaurants, and public spaces in South Florida — a trailblazing spirit to advocate for what is right that guided him throughout his life. 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. Jill and I are saddened to learn of his passing. May God bless Alcee Hastings and his family.”

Below are some of the many other statements and remembrances that have been shared about Hastings:

Rep. Frederica Wilson: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear friend, colleague, and fellow Fiskite, Congressman Alcee Hastings. He was the first African-American man from Florida to be elected to Congress. He was a giant freedom fighter for the lost and left out, especially black communities. He feared no man, he feared no institution and was not shy about voicing his dissent on any issue. He is leaving behind an enormous legacy for generations yet unborn to cherish and emulate. Throughout his illness, Congressman Hastings worked hard and long hours until he was no longer able to, and even then he instructed his staff daily about how to help his constituents recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure they had the resources they needed. He also was an inaugural member of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project and I will always remember the many kindnesses and contributions he made to the boys. Congressman Hastings will be sorely missed.”


"He was just that kind of character you could count on," Wilson said of her fellow Congressman, who died Tuesday at 84.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “Florida has lost a brilliant, fearless, giant-hearted advocate for this state that he dearly loved, and Congress has lost a wise, patient and compassionate statesman. I have lost a treasured friend and true mentor, someone I constantly leaned on for sage counsel. Alcee Hastings’ life was devoted to righting wrongs and he wasn’t afraid to use a little shame to press for change. From the halls of Congress to Broward County and as far as the Parliamentary Assembly in Europe, Congressman Hastings leaves an immense political legacy. I mourn today with his family and all those communities across South Florida whom he helped and safeguarded. May his memory be a blessing.”

Rep. Ted Deutch: “I had the honor of working side by side with Alcee for more than a decade, seeing first-hand his passion and drive for standing up to injustice and fighting for our community. Alcee devoted his career to advancing civil rights for all Americans and human rights around the world. His leadership on racial justice issues brought together everyone committed to a more just and equitable society.”

Rep. Lois Frankel: “It’s with a heavy heart that I have learned about the passing of my colleague and friend, Alcee Hastings,” said Rep. Frankel. “I’ve known Alcee for many years. He was a fierce fighter for civil rights and racial justice, and a great partner in Congress when it came to serving south Florida. He will be deeply missed. My heart goes out to his family, friends, and staff as we mourn his loss.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Congressman Hastings leaves behind a powerful legacy of activism and action on behalf of Floridians and all Americans. His leadership and friendship will be missed by his many friends in Congress.”

Vice President Kamala Harris: “Congressman Alcee Hastings welcomed me to the Congressional Black Caucus when I was still new to the Senate. He exuded the kind of warmth and good humor that not only put me at ease, but encouraged me to speak my mind. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with the Congressman on a number of issues, and learning from his collaborative and candid style of leadership.   Born in the Jim Crow South, Congressman Hastings understood our obligation to speak truth better than most. He began his career as a civil rights lawyer in the 1960s, channeling his passion for justice into the work of desegregating the public spaces of south Florida. As we mourn his death, I am comforted that his commitment to public service will serve as an example for generations to come.   I am deeply saddened by his passing. Doug and I are thinking of the Congressman’s family today.”

Sen. Marco Rubio: “With Alcee Hastings’s passing, Florida has lost one of its most preeminent and passionate public servants. As a congressman, Hastings was a tireless advocate for his constituents and for fighting against civil rights injustices, and the decades he spent representing our state in the House were an inspiration to all members of the Florida congressional delegation. Working alongside him on issues like Everglades restoration has been a personal highlight in my own work in the Senate. Jeanette and I mourn his passing. We unite in prayer and offer our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Rep. Al Lawson: “We lost a great leader in Florida today. Alcee was a kind and honorable man and well respected in Washington among his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He was a champion for human rights and social justice, and a constant advocate for South Florida’s underserved community. His fearless approach to service made him a trailblazer in Congress and throughout his career. I’ve been blessed to know him for more than 30 years. We spoke on the phone two weeks ago and I told him I was praying for him. Alcee was a fighter until the end. I will miss my friend, fraternity brother and fellow FAMU alum. His loss will be felt far beyond Florida and the halls of Congress, but across our nation. I would also like to extend my heartfelt condolences to his family, constituents and dedicated staff.”

Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Congressman Alcee Hastings. Our state lost a tremendous leader this morning. Congressman Hastings was a trailblazer and true giant of Florida politics. Forty years ago, fresh out of law school, I met Judge Hastings through a mutual friend, the late Jesse McCrary. Through our many conversations, I learned enduring lessons that govern my actions even today. As a mentor, he challenged me to be a pioneer – to never be afraid, but rather to live a life forging new paths and paving new roads, so that others find it easier to follow. As a respected attorney, civil rights activist and judge, he taught me to use the power of the law to improve the cause of human dignity, to right wrongs, to give a voice to those who can not speak, and to give a chance to all who would take it. As a public servant, he led by example, championing the rights of minorities, women, the elderly, children, and immigrants while challenging the government to fulfill its constitutional promise of equality and opportunity for all. Today we pause to express our deepest sympathy to his family, colleagues and friends.”

State Sen. Lauren Book: “Leading a life of public service, Congressman Alcee Hastings has left his beloved state of Florida better than he found it. Congressman Hastings broke barriers as he fought to advance civil rights as the first Black Federal Judge in the State of Florida and first Black Congressperson to represent Florida since the Civil War. I am grateful for the decades of advocacy Congressman Hastings provided for Floridians and offer my sincerest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.”

State Sen. Shevrin Jones: “I am devastated to hear of Congressman Hastings’ passing. Even as he battled health issues, he continued to serve South Florida’s vibrant communities with the same grace and passion that defined his decades of service on behalf of our community. From his inimitable spirit to his empowerment of up-and-coming local leaders, this loss leaves a true void that can never be filled. “For my entire life, he championed equity and civil rights for communities of color, women, seniors, and children, first on the bench and later in Congress. Over the last nine years, I had the pleasure to work with the Congressman as a partner on the state level, and I’m confident his impact will be felt for years to come. “Above all else though, I was proud to call Alcee a friend and mentor. Alcee would often tell people he was my god dad, something that gave my family great delight. He was one of the only elected officials to endorse my first campaign for state house when others wouldn’t return my calls. That was the kind of person he was — always rooting for and lifting up the underdog. “I extend my deepest prayers to his family and loved ones, including his wife Patricia, and children Jody, Chelsea, and Leigh, during this difficult time. I urge everyone to give them much-needed space to grieve as now isn’t the time of politics. With multiple crises facing the people of Florida, each of us must recommit to upholding the servant-leader values that guided the Congressman throughout his life. Alcee Hastings was one of a kind, and I will miss him dearly.”

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava: “South Florida lost a dedicated public servant and a lifelong fighter for civil rights and social justice with the passing of longtime Congressman Alcee Hastings. I offer my deepest condolences to the Hastings family who are mourning his loss. He was a fierce advocate for his community and the greater South Florida area and his voice will be missed dearly. May he rest in peace.”

Jared Moskowitz, outgoing director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management: “There will never be another Alcee Hastings. He was honest, he was direct and he gave a s--- about what mattered. If you want to be a public servant, he’s the perfect person to emulate. The Jewish community has lost one of their loudest voices and defenders. RIP”

Dania Beach Mayor Tamara James: “On behalf of all residents of Dania Beach, I extend our prayers and deepest sympathies for the loved ones of Congressman Alcee Hastings. Congressman Hastings was a giant of Florida politics in his decades of esteemed service, delivering for all of our communities and making sure that no one was overlooked. A civil rights champion, Congressman Hastings steadfastly fought for equal rights and equal justice for African American and Afro-Caribbean Americans, along with women, immigrants, the poor, and the LGBTQ+ community. We will miss him.”

About the Authors:

Sanela Sabovic joined Local 10 News in September 2012 as an assignment editor and associate producer. In August 2015, she became a full-time reporter and fill-in traffic reporter. Sanela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with a concentration in radio, television and film from DePaul University.