Frederica Smith Wilson (born Frederica Patricia Smith, November 5, 1942) is an American politician who has been a member of the United States House of Representatives since 2011, representing Florida’s 24th congressional district. Located in South Florida, Wilson’s congressional district, numbered as the 17th during her first term, covers a large swath of eastern Miami-Dade County and a sliver of southern Broward County. Included within the district are most of the majority-black precincts of Miami, as well as portions of Opa-locka, North Miami, Hollywood, and Miramar. She gained national attention in early 2012 as a result of her high-profile comments on the death of Trayvon Martin.[1][2]

Wilson is a member of the Democratic Party.[3] The seat to which she was elected became available when the incumbent Kendrick Meek ran for a seat in the Senate in 2010.

Wilson is known for her large and colorful hats, of which she owns several hundred. She has gone through efforts to get Congress to lift its ban on head coverings during House sessions. That rule dates back to 1837, 80 years before the first woman took her seat in Congress.[4][5]

Early life, education, and early career

Wilson was born Frederica Smith on November 5, 1942, in Miami, Florida, the daughter of Beulah (née Finley) and Thirlee Smith. Her maternal grandparents were Bahamian.[6][7] Wilson earned her bachelor of arts degree from Fisk University in 1963 and her master of arts degree from the University of Miami in 1972, both in elementary education.[8][9] She served as the principal of Skyway Elementary School in Miami.[10] In 1992 she left her position as principal to serve on the Miami-Dade County School Board. While a member of the school board,[10] Wilson started 5,000 Role Models of Excellence, an in-school mentoring program.[10]

Florida legislature

Wilson represented the 104th district in the Florida House of Representatives from 1998 to 2002.[10] She then represented the 33rd district[11] in the Florida Senate from 2002 until her election to Congress in 2010 when term limits prevented her from running again.[10] She served as Minority Leader Pro Tempore in 2006, then Minority Whip.

An early supporter of Barack Obama‘s 2008 presidential campaign, she voted for Obama and Joe Biden in 2008 as one of Florida’s presidential electors.[12]

U.S. House of Representatives

Chief Judge Kevin Michael Moore, swearing in Members of Congress Carlos Curbelo, Frederica Wilson, Mario Díaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. (February 2015)

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

2010 election

When Kendrick Meek retired from Florida’s 17th congressional district to run for the United States Senate in 2010, Wilson ran for the open seat and won the Democratic nomination to take it.[17] She won the general election on November 2, 2010, without electoral opposition in a district where the Democratic nomination is tantamount to election.

2012 election

2014 election

2016 election

2018 election

2020 election

Tenure

Education

During her career as an educator, she founded the 5000 Role Models program, which seeks to bring down dropout rates. Since her time in the Florida legislature, she has strongly opposed standardized testing.[18] She has expressed concern with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), suggesting that the funds spent administering the standardized test would be better spent on improving education by hiring more teachers, and proposing in 2012 that tutoring companies be banned from exploiting vulnerable children, “even if it means banning companies like Ignite! Learning, founded by ex-Governor Jeb Bush‘s brother, Neil“.[19]

Tea Party

Frederica Wilson has taken a vocal opposition to the Tea Party. At a Miami town hall meeting in 2011, she told citizens to remember that the Tea Party is the real enemy and that they hold Congress hostage. She expressed her belief that they had one goal in mind: “to make President Obama a one-term president.”[20]

Trayvon Martin case

Wilson took a vocal stance in the death of Trayvon Martin, who was a constituent of hers and whose family she says she has known all her life. She has been both praised and criticized for stating shortly after the killing the motive of the accused, George Zimmerman, was racism. She suggested in March 2012 that Zimmerman had “hunted” Martin, based simply on his race.[21] She said, “Mr. Zimmerman should be arrested immediately for his own safety.”[1][2]

In March 2012, in a statement on the floor of the House of Representatives, Wilson said, “Justice must be served. No more racial profiling!”[22] Describing the incident as a “classic example of racial profiling quickly followed by murder”, she called for Zimmerman to be arrested.[23] Wilson organized a rally in Miami on April 1, 2012, calling for Zimmerman’s imprisonment. She criticized Florida’s self-defense gun law, the so-called “Stand Your Ground” law, in the wake of Martin’s killing, even though she voted for it as a legislator. She expressed her feeling that when new laws go on the books that work against the people, the laws “should be looked at and repealed.”[24] In April 2012, Wilson said that the death of Martin was “definitely” murder.[25] However, on July 13, 2013, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of the charges of second degree murder and manslaughter.[26]

Concern was raised about Wilson’s outspoken comments, with some asking if her rhetoric was “making it more difficult for the prosecutor to do her job.”[27] Wilson has been calling for tougher laws to prevent racial profiling.[28]

Anti-hazing

Wilson led efforts to combat bullying and hazing both as the South Atlantic Regional Director for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and as a member of Congress.[29] A Miami Herald reporter nicknamed her “The Haze Buster” for her public stance against hazing. She was part of a coalition of African-American fraternity and sorority leaders who launched an anti-hazing campaign after the 2011 death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion Jr.[30]

Recognition

MSNBC’s “The Grio”, an African-American news and opinion platform, named Wilson to “The Grio 100” for 2012.[31]

Shooting of Charles Kinsey

After the release of the video showing police shooting mental health therapist Charles Kinsey in her district, Wilson tweeted in July 2016 that she was shocked and angered by Kinsey’s shooting. She added that “Like everyone else I have one question: Why?”[32]

Death of La David Johnson

Following the death of Sergeant La David Johnson on October 4, 2017, in an attack in Niger, Wilson told the press that on October 16, 2017, President Donald Trump had called Johnson’s widow while she was on the way to Miami International Airport for the arrival of Johnson’s remains. In the car with her were Johnson’s mother and other family members, as well as Wilson, a long-time friend of the family.[33][34][35][36][37] The widow put the call on speakerphone so that Wilson and others in the car heard it. Wilson stated Trump “was almost like joking” and that he said “he [Johnson] knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt”. Donald Trump later called Wilson’s characterization of the conversation a “fabrication.”[38][39] Johnson’s mother confirmed Wilson’s account on October 18,[40] at which point the White House ceased disputing Wilson’s account of the phone call and instead claimed that she was “mischaracterizing the spirit” of the conversation.[39] On October 23, Johnson’s widow also confirmed Wilson’s account.[41]

On October 19, 2017, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly gave a press briefing at the White House. Kelly, who is a gold star parent and was present at Trump’s end during the phone conversation, did not deny that Trump said the words reported.[35] But he defended Trump’s comments “forcefully and emotionally”, saying that Trump “in his way tried to express that opinion that he’s a brave man, a fallen hero.”[35] He also attacked Wilson for having listened to the phone call and claimed that she had a “history of politicizing what should be sacred moments”, citing the 2015 dedication of an FBI field office in Miami as an example. He claimed that her speech at that ceremony was “about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building” from then-President Barack Obama.[35]

Impeachment of Donald Trump

On December 18, 2019, Wison voted to impeach President Donald J. Trump.[42]

Personal life

Wilson married Paul Wilson in 1963 and was widowed when he died in 1988. She has three children.[8] She is an Episcopalian.[43]

Wilson is an avid wearer of hats. She has a large collection that includes hundreds of hats of all different varieties. She is known to wear one every day. During the tenure of former House Speaker John Boehner, she unsuccessfully asked him to waive the United States House of Representatives ban on head covering rule.[4] The rule was partially relaxed after the election of two Muslim women to congress in 2018. One, Ilhan Omar (D-MN), wore a hijab to her swearing in on January 3, 2019.[44]

Electoral history

2010 17th congressional district of Florida Democratic primary election[45]
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
DemocraticFrederica Wilson16,65335%
DemocraticRudy Moise7,76916%
DemocraticShirley Gibson5,77712%
DemocraticYolly Roberson4,92110%
DemocraticPhillip Brutus4,0688%
DemocraticMarleine Bastien2,8896%
DemocraticScott Galvin2,6536%
DemocraticJames Bush2,6305%
DemocraticAndre Williams8422%
2010 17th congressional district of Florida general election
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
DemocraticFrederica Wilson106,36186.2
IndependentRoderick D. Vereen17,00913.8
2012 24th congressional district of Florida Democratic primary election[46]
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
DemocraticFrederica Wilson42,76465.4
DemocraticRudy Moise22,65034.6
2014 24th congressional district of Florida primary election[46]
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
DemocraticFrederica Wilson35,45680.4
DemocraticMichael Etienne8,62819.6
2014 24th congressional district of Florida general election[46]
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
DemocraticFrederica Wilson129,19286.2
RepublicanDufirstson Julio Neree15,23910.2
IndependentLuis Fernandez5,4873.7
2016 24th congressional district of Florida primary election[47]
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
DemocraticFrederica Wilson50,71678.4
DemocraticRandal Hill13,96821.6
2018 24th congressional district of Florida primary election[48]
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
DemocraticFrederica Wilson (incumbent)65,89483.7
DemocraticRicardo de la Fuente12,83316.3

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Smith, Donna (March 27, 2012). “Democratic lawmakers blast police in teen killing”. Reuters. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  2. ^ a b “Focus in Trayvon Martin case shifts to Washington”. CNN. March 27, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  3. ^ “Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson: Biography”. United States House of Representatives. wilson.house.gov. Archived from the original on December 7, 2016. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Sherman, Amy (November 19, 2010). “Congresswoman-elect Frederica Wilson says hat ban started in 1800s but can be waived”. Politifact. Politifact. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  5. ^ Clark, Lesley (November 17, 2010). “Frederica Wilson backs Nancy Pelosi – but not the House hat ban”. Miami Herald Blog. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  6. ^ “US Congresswoman Frederica Wilson Courtesy calls on Bahamas’ Government”. Bahamas Weekly. June 20, 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  7. ^ “Frederica Wilson ancestry”. ancestry.com. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Frederica S. Wilson (FL), Project Vote Smart
  9. ^ “Wilson, Frederica”. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d e Sweeney, Dan (October 20, 2017). “Frederica Wilson and her fancy hats: Five things you need to know about the congresswoman at war with Trump”. Sun-Sentinel.com. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  11. ^ “2002-2004 Senate Handbook” (PDF). Florida Senate Website Archive. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  12. ^ “AP: It’s official: Barack Obama elected 44th president”.
  13. ^ “Membership”. Congressional Black Caucus. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  14. ^ “Membership”. Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  15. ^ “Members”. Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  16. ^ “Caucus Membrs”. US House of Representatives. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  17. ^ Fadely, Chuck (August 17, 2010). “Frederica Wilson likely headed for 17th district Congressional seat”. Miami Herald. Retrieved September 2, 2010. Frederica Wilson dominated a nine-candidate field for the Democratic nomination for the 17th Congressional seat vacated by Kendrick Meek. With no apparent Republican or Conservative opposition in the general election, she will likely go to Washington. She celebrated Tuesday night at the Chef Creole restaurant in Miami Gardens.
  18. ^ “Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.)”. Washington Post. WhoRunsGov. Archived from the original on November 6, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  19. ^ Wilson, Frederica (April 15, 2012). “FCAT closes door for many students”. Sun Sentinel. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  20. ^ “Dem Congresswoman: ‘The Real Enemy Is The Tea Party’ “. Real Clear Politics. August 23, 2011.
  21. ^ Smith, Donna (March 28, 2012). “Democratic lawmakers blast police in teen killing”. Reuters. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  22. ^ Rivas, Jorge (March 21, 2012). “Fla. Rep. Frederica Wilson Calls for Justice on House Floor for Trayvon Martin [Video]”. Color Lines. Quote occurs at approximately 3 minutes, 11 seconds. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  23. ^ Condon, Stephanie (March 21, 2012). “Trayvon Martin shooting spurs lawmakers to call for more action”. CBS News. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  24. ^ Dixon, Darius (March 21, 2012). “Trayvon Martin shooting: Frederica Wilson wants to nix Florida’s self-defense gun law”. Politico.
  25. ^ “Trayvon’s death was murder, Congressman Frederica Wilson says”. The Miami Herald. April 4, 2012. Archived from the original on June 5, 2012.
  26. ^ Campo, Arian (July 14, 2013). “Jury Acquits Zimmerman of All Charges”. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
  27. ^ “Rhetoric On Trayvon Martin Intensifies”. CNN. Transcripts. March 28, 2012.
  28. ^ “Rep. Frederica Wilson calls for tougher laws to prohibit racial profiling”. The Miami Herald. April 17, 2012.
  29. ^ “Congresswoman Wilson to Introduce Federal Anti-Hazing Bill in January” (Press release). United States House of Representatives. wilson.house.gov. December 27, 2011. Archived from the original on December 24, 2012.
  30. ^ “Black groups launch anti-hazing campaign”. Fox News. May 31, 2012.
  31. ^ “The Grio 2012”. MSNBC. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013.
  32. ^ Ortiz, Eric (July 21, 2016). “Cops Shoot Unarmed Caregiver With His Hands Up While He Helps Man”. NBC News. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  33. ^ Shear, Michael D. (October 19, 2017). Kelly Delivers Fervent Defense of Trump’s Call to Soldier’s Widow”. The New York Times. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  34. ^ Phillips, Kristine (October 18, 2017). “The private life of Sgt. La David Johnson, the slain soldier ensnared in a Trump controversy”. Washington Post. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  35. ^ a b c d McCaskill, Roland (October 19, 2017). “Kelly emotionally defends Trump’s call to military widow”. Politico. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  36. ^ Cohen, Howard (October 17, 2017). He knew what he signed up for,’ Trump reportedly tells widow of fallen Miami Gardens soldier”. The Miami Herald. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  37. ^ Abramson, Alana (October 18, 2017). “David T. Johnson’s Widow Received His Remains”. TIME. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  38. ^ Hawkins, Derek (October 19, 2017). “Rep. Frederica Wilson didn’t flinch at Trump’s attacks. Her record explains why”. New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  39. ^ a b Landler, Mark; Alcindor, Yamiche (October 18, 2017). “Trump’s Condolence Call to Soldier’s Widow Ignites an Imbroglio”. New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  40. ^ Gearan, Anne; Phillips, Kristine (October 18, 2017). “Fallen soldier’s mother: ‘Trump did disrespect my son. Washington Post. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  41. ^ Phillips, Kristine; Freedom du Lac, J.; Siegel, Rachel (October 23, 2017). “Gold Star widow Myeshia Johnson said Trump stumbled recalling her husband’s name”. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  42. ^ Panetta, Grace. “WHIP COUNT: Here’s which members of the House voted for and against impeaching Trump”. Business Insider.
  43. ^ Paulsen, David (November 9, 2017). “Episcopalians bring faith perspectives to Congress on both sides of political aisle”. Episcopal News Service. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  44. ^ Rashida Tlaib’s thobe and Ilhan Omar’s hijab are making congressional history: There’s even a hashtag: #TweetYourThobe, Vox.com, Rebecca Jennings, January 4, 2019. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  45. ^ Florida 17th District Profile The New York Times
  46. ^ a b c “Frederica Wilson”. ballotpedia.org. BallotPedia. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  47. ^ “Florida Primary Results”. The New York Times. September 29, 2016. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  48. ^ “Florida Primary Results”. The New York Times. August 28, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2020.

External links

Florida House of Representatives
Preceded by

Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 104th district

1998–2002
Succeeded by

Florida Senate
Preceded by

Member of the Florida Senate
from the 33rd district

2002–2010
Succeeded by

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida’s 17th congressional district

2011–2013
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida’s 24th congressional district

2013–present
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by

United States representatives by seniority
153rd
Succeeded by