By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMIAMI)– The influential former Florida Congresswoman Carrie Meek died Sunday at the age of 95. Those who knew and admired her say she will long be remembered for her devotion to public service.

“I feel as though we have lost a community treasure, someone who has probably had more influence in the legislative body than almost anyone coming from South Florida,” said Eduardo Padron, former President of Miami-Dade College and a colleague to Meek.

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“She always stood on the courage of her convictions,” he said. “She was an incredibly passionate advocate for the things she believed in. Carrie really cared for the underserved more than anyone I’ve met in my many years in Miami.”

Meek, the grandchild of a slave and daughter of a sharecropper, has a list of landmark accomplishments.

She was first African American woman in the Florida Senate, one of the first Black Floridians elected to Congress since the Reconstruction Era, and was also the First Black professor, Associate Dean, and Assistant to the Vice President at Miami-Dade College.

Padron, who knew Meek since the ’60s, said one of her goals was to make education accessible to all.

“At her request, we created an outreach campus, a center, in the middle of Liberty City, because she was concerned that many of the students in Liberty City did not have the resources or the means to get on two or three buses to get to any of the campuses of Miami Dade,” he explains.

Miami-Dade County Commission Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson said Meek was her mentor.

“Carrie was the type of person that you could walk up to and just talk to, and she would treat you just like anyone else. I don’t care who you were,” Edmonson said. “That was one of the main things she told me, ‘never get so big that you look down upon your constituency,’ and that’s something that I’ll always cherish and something I will stick by.”

She said one of Meek’s legacies is what she did for affordable housing.

“She enabled this whole entire county, as well as the state, to be able to cash in on the surtax fund, so we could help those who really needed a place to stay,” said Edmonson.

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Congresswoman Frederica Wilson also credits Meek for her career.

“She is a giant among giants,” Rep. Wilson said. “She left her mark on our community and all of us who are elected officials see her as a role model.”

Congresswoman Wilson said Rep. Meek was admired by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

“She was a hard worker. She was humble. She was approachable. She was loving. She was smart and she was a people person. We loved her. Everyone wanted to hug her. She brought home the bacon,” Wilson added.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava issued a statement offering her condolences, saying in part:

“She was never afraid to use her voice to speak out against inequality or to fight for the disenfranchised and the vulnerable — and her towering legacy will continue to shape our community and the nation for generations to come.”

Meek had three children: Lucia Davis-Raiford, Sheila Davis Kinui, and Congressman Kendrick B. Meek. They issued a statement on behalf of the family:

“Carrie Meek was our family matriarch who fulfilled this role for the entire South Florida community. She was a bridge builder and healer, a unifier with a legacy defined by selfless public service. Forever the educator, the Congresswoman taught us all lessons about justice and morality. Her approach was rooted in kindness and humility. Carrie Meek made our society stronger and more equitable — an outcome that is an everlasting tribute to our beloved mother.”

The family did not specify how she passed, but said she had been sick for some time.

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A memorial service is being planned for later this week at Miami-Dade College.

Karli Barnett