- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2002

MIAMI (AP) Rep. Carrie P. Meek, the granddaughter of a slave and one of the first black Floridians elected to Congress since Reconstruction, announced her retirement yesterday.
Mrs. Meek, 76, a five-term Democrat, told the congregation at Mount Tabor Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City that she will retire in December to work with people on educational and housing issues.
"It has been a good fight. It's time that I come home," Mrs. Meek said from the pulpit where she first announced her candidacy for the state legislature more than two decades ago. "There's much more for me to do here."
Mrs. Meek, who ran unopposed in the past two elections, made her announcement less than two weeks before candidates have to qualify for the race for her seat. The Democratic primary is Sept. 10, and the general election is Nov. 5.
Mrs. Meek's youngest child, state Sen. Kendrick Meek, said he would run to succeed her in the heavily Democratic district in Miami-Dade County. Mr. Meek, 35, said he would make a formal announcement today.
The congregation at Mount Tabor, which is in the heart of one of Miami's poorest communities, reacted with surprise.
"I'm sure she is going to be greatly missed in Washington, but she knows that she is still a part of us," said William R. Williams, a deacon at the church.
The congresswoman was hospitalized in December 2001 with abdominal pains and was diagnosed with shingles, a common viral inflammation of the nerves that often causes severe pain.
But Mrs. Meek said age and health were not factors in her decision and would not prevent her from working on the issues close to her heart.
"I'm not too old to serve. I'm not too sick to serve," Mrs. Meek said. "I have some dents and stuff, but I'm still in pretty good condition."
Mrs. Meek, a former administrator for Miami-Dade Community College, was elected to the state House in 1978 after the death of pioneer black legislator Gwen Cherry in an auto accident.
Four years later, she became the first black woman ever elected to the Florida Senate.
In 1992, she won a seat in Congress, joining U.S. Reps. Alcee L. Hastings of Miramar and Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, who became the first black Floridians elected to Congress since Reconstruction.
State Democratic Chairman Bob Poe called the announcement a bit of a surprise, noting that Mrs. Meek was leaving behind a legacy that would be hard to surpass.
"It's always been presumed that when she retires, Kendrick would run," Mr. Poe said. "We just didn't think that it would be this soon."

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