Image Ownership: Public Domain
Kendrick Meek, former highway patrolman, Florida state representative, and state senator, has served in the United States House of Representatives as a Democratic representative from Florida’s 17th District since 2003. Meek was born on September 6, 1966 in Miami, Florida, and is the son of former U.S. Representative Carrie Meek, who also represented Florida’s 17th District before her son took over her position.
Meek’s childhood was influenced by his mother’s role as an elected official. He remembers sleeping under his mother’s desk at the Florida House Office Building on days when she worked late. Carrie Meek, whose grandmother was a slave, was the first African American elected to Congress from Florida since the Reconstruction. Kendrick Meek as a teenager understood her important symbolic role to the entire African American population of the state.
Despite dyslexia, Meek worked his way through high school and attend Florida A&M University on a football scholarship. He graduated in 1989 with a degree in science.
After graduating, Meek joined the Florida Highway Patrol and was assigned to the security detail for Democratic Lieutenant Governor Buddy MacKay. Meek used the opportunity to further his knowledge of state politics, often attending political meetings when he was off duty. During his four year career with the Florida Highway Patrol, Meek became the first African American to reach the rank of captain.
In 1994, Meek ran for the state legislature, and won when his opponent, State Representative Elaine Gordon (who was battling a brain tumor at the time), dropped out. Four years later, Meek easily won reelection. While in the Florida House, Meek worked with Republicans in order to provide compensation for two African Americans who had been falsely convicted for murder 35 years earlier.
During his four years in the state Senate (1998-2002) Meek found himself embroiled in the national debate over the issue of affirmative action. Florida Governor Jeb Bush put forward a new program called One Florida, which would discontinue the use of affirmative action in favor of college entrance admission guarantees to the top 20% of each public high school’s graduating class.
African American leaders objected to this program because they felt it was sure to lower African American student enrollment at major Florida universities. Meek and other fellow legislators went to meet with Governor Bush in order to discuss the One Florida plan, but were rebuffed when Bush told them he was too busy to talk. When they offered to wait, the governor reportedly told them that they would need blankets because it would be a long wait. The incident became public when Meek and several others took him up on the challenge, creating an overnight sit-in at the governor’s office.
In 2002, Meek once again challenged Governor Bush concerning state education budgets. After his daughter entered kindergarten to a class size of 34, he sponsored an amendment to the state constitution to reduce and limit class sizes. In the summer of that same year, Meek’s mother announced her retirement from the U.S. House and Meek easily claimed victory in the election to replace her. Elected to Congress at 39, Meek won national attention for his defiance of Governor Jeb Bush and more recently for his opposition to many of the domestic policies of President George Bush. Meek supports same-sex marriages, an increase of minimum wage, human embryonic stem cell research, and abortion. He voted “no” on declaring war in Iraq with no exit date.
Meek is a member of the 100 Black Men organization which focuses on empowering African American teens and children through education; he is also a lifetime member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
University of Washington