Frederica Wilson

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Frederica Wilson
Frederica Wilson official House portrait.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 24th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Sandy Adams
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 17th district
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Kendrick Meek
Succeeded by Tom Rooney
Member of the Florida Senate
from the 33rd district
In office
Preceded by Kendrick Meek
Succeeded by Oscar Braynon
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 104th district
In office
Preceded by Kendrick Meek
Succeeded by Yolly Roberson
Personal details
Born Frederica Patricia Smith
(1942-11-05) November 5, 1942 (age 78)
Miami, Florida
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Paul Wilson (m. 1963; wid. 1988)
Children 3
Alma mater Fisk University (B.S.)
University of Miami (M.S.)
Profession Educator, politician
Religion Episcopalian

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. 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 Pembroke Pines, Hollywood, Miramar, and North Miami. She gained national attention in early 2012 as a result of her high-profile comments on the killing of Trayvon Martin, who was a constituent of hers and whose family she knew personally.[citation needed]

Wilson, who describes herself as a "voice for the voiceless", is a member of the Democratic Party.[1] Her seat was left open when the incumbent Kendrick Meek ran for a seat in the Senate in 2010.

Wilson is famous 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.[2][3]

Early life, education, and 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.[4][5] Wilson earned her bachelor of arts degree from Fisk University in 1963,[6] and her master of arts degree from the University of Miami in 1972.[7] She served as the Principal of Skyway Elementary School in Miami. She served on the Miami-Dade County School Board from 1992 through 1998.

Portrait of State Sen. Wilson in 2007.

Florida Legislature

Wilson represented District 104 in the Florida House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002. She then represented the 33rd District in the Florida Senate from 2003 to 2010. She served as Minority Pro Tempore in 2006, then Minority Lead Whip.

An early supporter, in 2008 she voted for Barack Obama and Joe Biden as one of Florida's presidential electors.[8]

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)

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 face her Republican challenger to win Meek's seat.[9] On November 2, 2010 she won in the general election without electoral opposition, in a district where the Democratic nomination is tantamount to election.

Committee assignments



Wilson's signature issue is 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.[10] She has expressed concern with the FCAT, saying the value of the test is not worth the cost of administering it. She suggested banning the tutoring companies from exploiting vulnerable children, "even if it means banning companies like Ignite! Learning, founded by ex-Governor Jeb Bush's brother, Neil".[11]

Tea Party

Frederica Wilson has taken a vocal opposition to the Tea Party. At a Miami town hall meeting, 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 have one goal in mind: "to make President Obama a one-term president."[12]

Trayvon Martin case

Wilson took a vocal stance on the killing 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 that the motive of the accused, George Zimmerman, was racism. Her most repeated quote was "Trayvon Was hunted down like a rabid dog. He was shot in the street." She called for Zimmerman's arrest “for his own safety.”[13] For making this suggestion, she received criticism from conservative quarters. A Breitbart piece noted the only way somebody can be imprisoned for their own safety is if they are a threat to themselves. They cited that the Constitution "expressly forbids such measures under the Fourth Amendment and the only excuse for a criminal arrest is probable cause."[14]

In March 2012, Wilson said "Justice must be served. No more racial profiling!"[15] She also went to the House floor and called for the "murderer" to be arrested, saying it was an ovious case of racial profiling.[16] 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, sharing her sentiment that when new laws go on the books, and they work against the people, the laws "should be looked at and repealed."[17] In April 2012, Wilson said that the death of Martin was "definitely" murder.[18]

Concern had been raised about Wilson's outspoken comments, with some asking if her rhetoric was "making it more difficult for the prosecutor to do her job."[19] Wilson has been calling for tougher laws to prevent the racial profiling that led to Martin's death.[20]


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.[21] 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.[22]


MSNBC's “The Grio,” an African-American news and opinion platform, named Wilson a “The Grio 100” for 2012.[23]

Personal life

Wilson is widowed. She has three children.[7] Wilson is an avid wearer of hats. She has a large collection that includes hundreds of hats of all different varieties. She wears one every day to honor her late grandmother. She has asked House Speaker John Boehner to waive the rule prohibiting the wearing of hats on the floor of the House of Representatives, a rule in place since 1837.[2]

Electoral history

Democratic Primary 2010[24]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Frederica Wilson 16,653 35%
Democratic Rudolph Moise 7,769 16%
Democratic Shirley Gibson 5,777 12%
Democratic Yolly Roberson 4,921 10%
Democratic Phillip Brutus 4,068 8%
Democratic Marleine Bastien 2,889 6%
Democratic Scott Galvin 2,653 6%
Democratic James Bush 2,630 5%
Democratic Andre Williams 842 2%
2010 17th Congressional District of Florida Elections
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Frederica Wilson 106,361 86.2
Independent Roderick D. Vereen 17,009 13.8


  1. "MEET CONGRESSWOMAN FREDERICA WILSON". Congress. Retrieved 24 May 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Congresswoman-elect Frederica Wilson says hat ban started in 1800s but can be waived". Politifact. Politifact. Retrieved 23 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Clark, Lesley. "Frederica Wilson backs Nancy Pelosi -- but not the House hat ban". Miami Herald Blog. Retrieved 23 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "US Congresswoman Frederica Wilson Courtesy calls on Bahamas' Government". Bahamas Weekly. 2011-06-20. Retrieved 2011-06-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Frederica Wilson ancestry". Retrieved 17 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "WILSON, Frederica - Biographical Information". Retrieved 17 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Frederica S. Wilson (FL), Project Vote Smart
  8. AP: It's official: Barack Obama elected 44th president
  9. Fadely, Chuck (2010-08-17). "Frederica Wilson likely headed for 17th district Congressional seat". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.)". Washington Post. 23 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "FCAT closes door for many students". Sun Sentinel. 15 April 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. [Dem Congresswoman: "The Real Enemy Is The Tea Party" "Dem Congresswoman: "The Real Enemy Is The Tea Party""] Check |url= value (help). Real Clear Politics. 23 August 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Democratic lawmakers blast police in teen killing". Reuters. 28 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Shapiro, Ben. "DEM CONGRESSWOMAN: ARREST ZIMMERMAN 'FOR HIS OWN SAFETY'". Breitbart.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Fla. Rep. Frederica Wilson Calls for Justice on House Floor for Trayvon Martin [Video]". Color Lines.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Trayvon Martin shooting spurs lawmakers to call for more action". CBS. 21 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Dixon, Darius (21 March 2012). "Trayvon Martin shooting: Frederica Wilson wants to nix Florida's self-defense gun law". Politico.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Trayvon's death was murder, Congressman Frederica Wilson says". The Miami Herald. 4 April 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Rhetoric On Trayvon Martin Intensifies Transcript". CNN. 28 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Rep. Frederica Wilson calls for tougher laws to prohibit racial profiling". The Miami Herald. 17 April 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Black groups launch anti-hazing campaign". Fox News. 31 May 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "The Grio 2012". MSNBC.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Florida 17th District Profile The New York Times

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Kendrick Meek
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 17th congressional district

January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2013
Succeeded by
Tom Rooney
Preceded by
Sandy Adams
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 24th congressional district

January 3, 2013 – present
Succeeded by
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Daniel Webster
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Steve Womack