U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., the dean of the Florida congressional delegation, died on Tuesday at the age of 84. Hastings had been battling pancreatic cancer in recent years.
Convicted and impeached by Congress for accepting a bribe–becoming only the sixth federal judge in American history to be removed from the bench by Congress–Hastings bounced back to win a congressional seat in 1992. Over the past three decades, Hastings defended his seat in a secure Democratic district. He handily kept his seat despite the Treasury Department being forced to pay out $220,000 to settle with a former staffer who accused the congressman of sexual harassment and being ranked by Judicial Watch as the number one member of Congress when it came to nepotism.
A longtime attorney and civil rights activist, Hastings ran for the U.S. Senate in 1970 but did not win the Democratic nomination. After serving as a judge in Broward County, Hastings was named by then-President Jimmy Carter as a federal judge in the Southern District of Florida. He was impeached and convicted from that post in 1989 for bribery and perjury.
Hastings served as one of the co-chairmen of the Florida delegation. In recent years, Hastings also reeled in some major positions in the House. At the start of 2019, he was named the vice-chairman of the powerful U.S. House Rules Committee which determines what bills hit the House floor. Hastings also took over the U.S. House Legislative and Budget Process Subcommittee. Back in February 2019, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tapped Hastings to return as chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission.
Only three weeks ago, U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-SC, announced that Hastings will serve as a senior whip, a role the South Florida congressman had last year.
“Alcee’s experience will serve us well as we face historic challenges and opportunities this year,” said Clyburn. “I am pleased that he will be returning as senior whip and look forward to working with him.”
State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, weighed in on Hastings on Wednesday.
“Leading a life of public service, Congressman Alcee Hastings has left his beloved state of Florida better than he found it,” she said. “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.”
Hastings represented parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties in a very secure district for Democrats.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.