Frederica Wilson

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Frederica Wilson
Frederica Wilson official House portrait.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Preceded byKendrick Meek
Constituency17th district (2011–2013)
24th district (2013–present)
Member of the Florida Senate
from the 33rd district
In office
November 5, 2002 – December 31, 2010
Preceded byRedistricted
Succeeded byOscar Braynon
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 104th district
In office
November 3, 1998 – November 5, 2002
Preceded byKendrick Meek
Succeeded byRedistricted
Personal details
Frederica Patricia Smith

(1942-11-05) November 5, 1942 (age 78)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Paul Wilson
(m. 1963; died 1988)
EducationFisk University (BS)
University of Miami (MS)
WebsiteHouse website

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, 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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.[13] She won the general election on November 2, 2010, without electoral opposition in a district where the Democratic nomination is tantamount to election.

She is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.[14]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

2012 election[edit]

2014 election[edit]

2016 election[edit]

2018 election[edit]



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.[19] 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".[20]

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."[21]

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.[22] 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!"[23] Describing the incident as a "classic example of racial profiling quickly followed by murder", she called for Zimmerman to be arrested.[24] 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."[25] In April 2012, Wilson said that the death of Martin was "definitely" murder.[26] However, on July 13, 2013, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of the charges of second degree murder and manslaughter.[27]

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."[28] Wilson has been calling for tougher laws to prevent racial profiling.[29]


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.[30] 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.[31]


MSNBC's "The Grio", an African-American news and opinion platform, named Wilson to "The Grio 100" for 2012.[32]

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?"[33]

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.[34][35][36][37][38] 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."[39][40] Johnson's mother confirmed Wilson's account on October 18,[41] 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.[40] On October 23, Johnson's widow also confirmed Wilson's account.[42]

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.[36] 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."[36] 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.[36]

The details of Kelly's statement were disproven by the video recording of the event.[43][44][45] 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.[46][47] The FBI secured the building's funding in 2009, before Wilson became a congresswoman in 2011.[45] The Miami Herald reported that Kelly had misquoted the cost of the building as $20 million versus the actual $194 million.[48] As a result, several newspapers have called for Kelly to apologize to Wilson.[49][50][51] The White House said the video did not capture all of Wilson's comments.[52]

Impeachment of Donald Trump

On December 18, 2019, Wison voted to impeach President Donald J. Trump.[53]

Personal life[edit]

Wilson married Paul Wilson in 1963 and was widowed when he died in 1988. She has three children.[8] She is an Episcopalian.[54]

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.[55]

Electoral history[edit]

2010 17th congressional district of Florida Democratic primary election[56]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Frederica Wilson 16,653 35%
Democratic Rudy 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 general election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Frederica Wilson 106,361 86.2
Independent Roderick D. Vereen 17,009 13.8
2012 24th congressional district of Florida Democratic primary election[57]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Frederica Wilson 42,764 65.4
Democratic Rudy Moise 22,650 34.6
2014 24th congressional district of Florida primary election[57]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Frederica Wilson 35,456 80.4
Democratic Michael Etienne 8,628 19.6
2014 24th congressional district of Florida general election[57]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Frederica Wilson 129,192 86.2
Republican Dufirstson Julio Neree 15,239 10.2
Independent Luis Fernandez 5,487 3.7
2016 24th congressional district of Florida primary election[58]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Frederica Wilson 50,716 78.4
Democratic Randal Hill 13,968 21.6
2018 24th congressional district of Florida primary election[59]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Frederica Wilson (incumbent) 65,894 83.7
Democratic Ricardo de la Fuente 12,833 16.3

See also[edit]


  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. 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". Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Frederica S. Wilson (FL), Project Vote Smart
  9. ^ "Wilson, Frederica". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. 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". 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. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  15. ^ "Membership". Congressional Black Caucus. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  16. ^ "Membership". Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  17. ^ "Members". Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  18. ^ "Caucus Membrs". US House of Representatives. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  19. ^ "Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.)". Washington Post. WhoRunsGov. Archived from the original on November 6, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  20. ^ Wilson, Frederica (April 15, 2012). "FCAT closes door for many students". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  21. ^ "Dem Congresswoman: 'The Real Enemy Is The Tea Party' [video]". Real Clear Politics. August 23, 2011.
  22. ^ Smith, Donna (March 28, 2012). "Democratic lawmakers blast police in teen killing". Reuters. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Condon, Stephanie (March 21, 2012). "Trayvon Martin shooting spurs lawmakers to call for more action". CBS News. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  25. ^ Dixon, Darius (March 21, 2012). "Trayvon Martin shooting: Frederica Wilson wants to nix Florida's self-defense gun law". Politico.
  26. ^ "Trayvon's death was murder, Congressman Frederica Wilson says". The Miami Herald. April 4, 2012. Archived from the original on June 5, 2012.
  27. ^ Campo, Arian (July 14, 2013). "Jury Acquits Zimmerman of All Charges". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
  28. ^ "Rhetoric On Trayvon Martin Intensifies". CNN. Transcripts. March 28, 2012.
  29. ^ "Rep. Frederica Wilson calls for tougher laws to prohibit racial profiling". The Miami Herald. April 17, 2012.
  30. ^ "Congresswoman Wilson to Introduce Federal Anti-Hazing Bill in January" (Press release). United States House of Representatives. December 27, 2011. Archived from the original on December 24, 2012.
  31. ^ "Black groups launch anti-hazing campaign". Fox News. May 31, 2012.
  32. ^ "The Grio 2012". MSNBC. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013.
  33. ^ Ortiz, Eric (July 21, 2016). "Cops Shoot Unarmed Caregiver With His Hands Up While He Helps Man". NBC News. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ a b c d McCaskill, Roland (October 19, 2017). "Kelly emotionally defends Trump's call to military widow". Politico. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ Abramson, Alana (October 18, 2017). "David T. Johnson's Widow Received His Remains". TIME. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ 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.
  41. ^ Gearan, Anne; Phillips, Kristine (October 18, 2017). "Fallen soldier's mother: 'Trump did disrespect my son'". Washington Post. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ Nakamura, David (October 20, 2017). "Video shows Kelly made inaccurate claims about lawmaker in feud over Trump's condolence call". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  44. ^ "Full video of Frederica Wilson 2015 speech at new FBI building". SunSentinel. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  45. ^ a b CBS News (October 21, 2017). "Fact-checking the John Kelly-Frederica Wilson controversy". Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  46. ^ "AP Fact Check: Kelly Distorted Facts in Attack on Congresswoman". October 20, 2017. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
  47. ^ "Fact-checking John Kelly on Frederica Wilson's 2015 speech". @politifact. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
  48. ^ Daugherty, Alex; Kumar, Anita; Hanks, Douglas. "In attack on Frederica Wilson over Trump's call to widow, John Kelly gets facts wrong". The Miami Herald. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  49. ^ Editorial Board (October 21, 2017). "John Kelly owes the congresswoman an apology". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  50. ^ Editorial (October 20, 2017). "John Kelly's mistake: He owes an apology to Rep. Frederica Wilson". NY Daily News. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  51. ^ Sun Sentinel Editorial Board (October 20, 2017). "Frederica Wilson is no 'empty barrel,' John Kelly | Editorial". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  52. ^ Sampathkumar, Mythili (October 20, 2017). "White House says its 'highly inappropriate' to question Trump's chief of staff because he is a four-star general". Independent. Retrieved October 24, 2017. '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".'
  53. ^ Panetta, Grace. "WHIP COUNT: Here's which members of the House voted for and against impeaching Trump". Business Insider.
  54. ^ Paulsen, David (November 9, 2017). "Episcopalians bring faith perspectives to Congress on both sides of political aisle". Episcopal News Service. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  55. ^ Rashida Tlaib’s thobe and Ilhan Omar’s hijab are making congressional history: There’s even a hashtag: #TweetYourThobe,, Rebecca Jennings, January 4, 2019. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  56. ^ Florida 17th District Profile The New York Times
  57. ^ a b c "Frederica Wilson". BallotPedia. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  58. ^ "Florida Primary Results". The New York Times. September 29, 2016. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  59. ^ "Florida Primary Results". The New York Times. August 28, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2020.

External links[edit]

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

Succeeded by
Tom Rooney
Preceded by
Sandy Adams
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 24th congressional district

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Daniel Webster
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Steve Womack