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Alcee Hastings, Longtime Florida Congressman, Dies at 84

  • April 07, 2021

Alcee Lamar Hastings was born on Sept. 5, 1936, in Altamonte Springs, a largely Black suburb of Orlando. His father, Julius Hastings, was a butler, and his mother, Mildred (Merritt) Hastings, was a maid.

His parents eventually left Florida to take jobs to earn money for his education. Alcee stayed with his maternal grandmother while he attended Crooms Academy in Sanford, Fla., which was founded for African-American students and is now known as Crooms Academy of Information Technology. He graduated in 1953.

He attended Fisk University in Nashville, graduating in 1958 with majors in zoology and botany, and started law school at Howard University before transferring to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee. He received his law degree there in 1963.

As a student, he was involved in early civil rights struggles. Recalling a drugstore sit-in in North Carolina in 1959, he later said: “Those were the early days of the civil rights movement, and the people in Walgreens were breaking eggs on our heads and throwing mustard and ketchup and salt at us. We sat there taking all of that.”

He went into private practice as a civil rights lawyer in Fort Lauderdale. When he arrived, according to The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a motel wouldn’t rent him a room; throughout much of the 1960s and ’70s, parts of the county were dangerous for Black people.

At a luncheon honoring Mr. Hastings in 2019, the newspaper said, Howard Finkelstein, a former Broward County public defender, called him a “howling voice” trying to change Broward from a “little cracker town that was racist and mean and vicious.”

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