Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, died Tuesday prior he was the first African American from Florida since the post-Civil War era to be elected to the United States Congress.
As a senior leader in the Democratic Caucus, Hastings served in the 116th Congress as Vice Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (known as the Helsinki Commission), Senior Democratic Whip, and Dean and Co-Chairman of the Florida Congressional delegation.
Throughout his lifetime, Hastings has championed the rights of minorities, women, the elderly, children, and immigrants.
Born in Altamonte Springs, Florida, he attended Florida’s public school system and graduated from Fisk University. in 1958. He then earned his law degree from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
Known to many as “Judge,” Hastings distinguished himself as an attorney and civil rights activist. In 1979, he became the first African American Federal Judge in the State of Florida, when President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the bench. He served in that position for 10 years.
In 1992, Hastings was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he established himself as an outspoken leader for making our country safer and more secure.
He has worked to protect women and vulnerable populations, fund Head Start and other education programs, and provide family and medical leave to all workers. Hastings has also worked to strengthen Social Security, protect the rights of voters, create tax incentives for small businesses, provide job training for displaced workers, ban assault weapons, and advocate for environmental protections to keep Florida safe for future generations.
Hastings has also distinguished himself on the world stage and has become one of the most respected voices in international affairs. He is known throughout the world as an expert in foreign policy.
In 2007, Hastings became the first African American to Chair the U.S. Helsinki Commission, an independent U.S. government agency created in 1976 to monitor and encourage compliance with the landmark human rights and democracy-building treaty signed in Finland the previous year.
Again, serving as Chair, Hastings continues his work in the areas of human rights, economic development, and parliamentary diplomacy. As Vice Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, Hastings is an expert in House Floor procedure and the legislative process.
Furthermore, as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, he led Congress’ oversight of matters associated with the inter-branch relations of Congress and the Executive. He is also the former Vice Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI).
Hastings is the proud recipient of numerous honors and awards bestowed on him from organizations both at home and abroad. His governing philosophy is simple: he passionately believes that progress and change can be achieved through mutual respect and understanding, and that individuals and communities can see beyond the limits of parochialism,enabling them to better appreciate each other.