Representative Alcee Hastings of Florida, a former civil rights lawyer and federal judge who served in Congress for nearly three decades and became vice chair of the House Rules Committee, died Tuesday morning. He was 84 years old.
Mr Hastings, a Democrat, announced in 2019 that he had pancreatic cancer. His death was confirmed by his chief of staff, Lale Morrison.
His death will reduce the already slim Democratic majority in the House until a special election can be held to take the seat. His district – Florida’s 20th largest, which includes black communities around Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach as well as a huge, less populated area around Lake Okeechobee – is reliably Democrat.
Mr. Hastings was born September 5, 1936 in Altamonte Springs, Florida. He studied at Fisk University and received a law degree from Florida A&M University. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, making him Florida’s first black federal judge, according to his congressional biography.
He was indicted in 1989 for bribery and perjury, but three years later a federal court ruled the Senate improperly dismissed him. He won the House election soon after and took his seat in 1993.
He is survived by his wife, Patricia Williams, and four children.
With the death of Mr. Hastings, there are now 218 Democrats and 211 Republicans in the House, with six vacant seats. One of those seats is slated to be filled next week by Julia Letlow, a Republican who won a special election in Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District after the death of her husband, Representative-elect Luke Letlow, from the aftermath of Covid- 19.