(CNN) — Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, a civil rights activist and the longest-serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation, has died, his chief of staff Lale M. Morrison told CNN on Tuesday. He was 84.
In January 2019, he announced that he was being treated for pancreatic cancer and planned to remain in Congress during the treatment, calling it “a battle worth fighting.” His death was first reported Tuesday by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Hastings first began serving in the US House of Representatives in 1993 and has been a member of the House Rules Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid tribute to the late congressman in a statement, saying, “All who knew Alcee knew him as a champion for the most vulnerable in our nation.”
“As an attorney, civil rights activist and judge, and over his nearly thirty years in Congress, he fought tirelessly to create opportunities to lift up working families, communities of color, children and immigrants,” Pelosi said.
The Congressional Black Caucus said in a statement that Hastings was “a pioneer and leading voice in the fight for civil and voting rights.”
With the passing of Hastings, the House Democratic majority becomes slimmer, even if the vacancy is only temporary. With his death, the current House count is 218 Democrats to 211 Republicans and as of Tuesday there are six vacancies.
Hastings was appointed to the Florida federal bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and became the state’s first African American federal judge.
His career was also marked at times by moments of intense controversy.
Hastings was impeached by the House and removed from office as a federal judge by the Senate in 1989. The House adopted a number of articles of impeachment against Hastings that included charges of conspiracy and perjury — of which the Senate voted by the necessary two-thirds vote to convict him on eight articles.
According to the biography on his congressional website, Hastings had served as the dean and co-chairman of the Florida congressional delegation. He was born in Altamonte Springs, Florida and received a law degree from Florida A&M University in the city of Tallahassee.
The family of the late congressman released a statement on Tuesday, saying of his legacy: “He lived a life of triumph over adversity and his brilliance and compassion was felt amongst his constituents, colleagues, the nation and the world … He will be dearly missed but his legacy and fighting spirit will forever live on.”
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, another member of the Florida congressional delegation, said in a statement, “Florida has lost a brilliant, fearless, giant-hearted advocate for this state that he dearly loved, and Congress has lost a wise, patient and compassionate statesman.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
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