|Member of the|
U.S. House of Representatives
January 3, 2011
|Constituency||17th district (2011-2013)|
24th district (2013-present)
|Member of the Florida Senate|
from the 33rd district
November 5, 2002 - December 31, 2010
|Member of the Florida House of Representatives|
from the 104th district
November 3, 1998 - November 5, 2002
Frederica Patricia Smith
November 5, 1942
Miami, Florida, U.S.
(m. 1963; died 1988)
|Education||Fisk University (BS) Elementary Ed. |
University of Miami (MS Elementary Ed.)
Frederica Smith Wilson (born Frederica Patricia Smith, November 5, 1942) is a politician who has been a member of the United States House of Representatives since 2011. Located in South Florida, Wilson's congressional district--numbered the 17th during her first two years in Congress, and the 24th since 2013--is a majority African-American district that includes the southern parts of Broward County and the eastern parts of Miami-Dade County. Included within the district are Opa-locka, Hollywood, Miramar, and North Miami. She gained national attention in early 2012 as a result of her high-profile comments on the death of Trayvon Martin.
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, which dates back to 1837.
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. 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. She served as the principal of Skyway Elementary School in Miami. In 1992 she left her position as principal to serve on the Miami-Dade County School Board. While a member of the school board, Wilson started 5000 Role Models of Excellence, an in-school mentoring program.
Wilson represented District 104 in the Florida House of Representatives from 1998 to 2002. She then represented the 33rd District in the Florida Senate from 2002 until her election to Congress in 2010 when term limits prevented her from running again. She served as Minority Leader Pro Tempore in 2006, then Minority Whip.
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. She won the general election on November 2, 2010, without electoral opposition in a district where the Democratic nomination is tantamount to election.
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. 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".
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."
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. She said, "Mr. Zimmerman should be arrested immediately for his own safety."
In March 2012, in a statement on the floor of the House of Representatives, Wilson said, "Justice must be served. No more racial profiling!" Describing the incident as a "classic example of racial profiling quickly followed by murder", she called for Zimmerman to be arrested. 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." In April 2012, Wilson said that the death of Martin was "definitely" murder. However, on July 13, 2013, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of the charges of second degree murder and manslaughter.
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." Wilson has been calling for tougher laws to prevent racial profiling.
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. 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.
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?"
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. 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." Johnson's mother confirmed Wilson's account on October 18, 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. On October 23, Johnson's widow also confirmed Wilson's account.
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. 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." 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.
The details of Kelly's statement were disproven by the video recording of the event. During her nine-minute speech, Wilson spoke for less than three minutes about leading an effort to expedite a bill through Congress. The bill's purpose was naming the FBI building after two FBI agents slain in the line of duty; the bill would normally not have become law in time for the building's dedication ceremony. Wilson dedicated the remainder of her speech to acknowledging other politicians involved in the effort, thanking FBI personnel, and talking about the slain agents. The FBI secured the building's funding in 2009, before Wilson became a congresswoman in 2011.The Miami Herald reported that Kelly had misquoted the cost of the building as $20 million versus the actual $194 million. As a result, several newspapers have called for Kelly to apologize to Wilson. The White House said the video did not capture all of Wilson's comments.
Wilson married Paul Wilson in 1963 and was widowed when he died in 1988. She has three children.
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 rule which prohibits the wearing of hats on the floor of the House of Representatives, a rule in place since 1837.
|Independent||Roderick D. Vereen||17,009||13.8|
|Republican||Dufirstson Julio Neree||15,239||10.2|
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.
'She [Sanders] also said the Congresswoman "had quite a few comments that day that weren't part of that speech and weren't part of that video that were also witnessed by many people that were there -- what Gen. Kelly referenced yesterday".'
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 17th congressional district
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 24th congressional district
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority