Retired public defender Howard Finkelstein saw those criminal charges as retaliation for Hastings’ outspokenness. “In the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, the government only—only—only went after Black men that ascended to power,” Finkelstein told the Sun-Sentinel. “That is what they did, and they came after Alcee—all the king’s horses and all the king’s men—with everything they had to destroy this man.”
Before he was a federal judge, Alcee Hastings was a civil rights lawyer, one who moved to Broward County, Florida, in the early 1960s, when motels refused to rent him a room and the lawsuits he filed included one against a restaurant that was popular with judges and lawyers even as it would not serve Black customers. He was then appointed a Broward Circuit Court judge in 1977.
In Congress, the Sun-Sentinel recounts, Hastings “didn’t have a long list of marquee legislative achievements. He exercised influence internally, serving on the Rules Committee, a critical panel through which the majority party controls the flow of business on the House floor.” He chaired the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, known as the Helsinki Commission.
The child of domestic workers, Hastings attended a segregated high school, then received his B.A. at Fisk University and his J.D. at Florida A&M. He is survived by his wife, Patricia Williams, three adult children from previous marriages, and a stepdaughter.
Hastings’ successor will be chosen in a special election, the timing of which will be decided by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“He feared no man. He feared no institution. He was not shy about voicing his dissent about any issue,” Rep. Frederica Wilson told The Hill of Hastings.