Frederica Wilson (D-FL-17)

Frederica Wilson Congresswoman Florida District 17

Frederica Wilson Biography from

Biography of Frederica Wilson

Throughout her life, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has been a voice for the voiceless.

As an elementary school principal, she stood up for the health of her students by opposing the construction of an environmentally dangerous waste facility being built across the street from her school. She won the fight, forcing the Miami-Dade County Commission to close the plant.

As a community leader, she stood up for the fair treatment of Haitian women refugees who were incarcerated with no privacy in a local detention center. In 1984, she tirelessly and successfully lobbied Congress for their release. To this day, she remains close friends with all of them.

Her lifelong desire for standing up for our most vulnerable populations is rooted in her faith, family, and passion for public service.

Frederica S. Wilson was born on November 5, 1942 in Miami’s Overtown community, but was raised in nearby Liberty City. The daughter of Beulah Finley and Thirlee Smith, a small business owner and local civil rights activist, she learned the value of community activism from a young age. Her parents always taught her to care for the downtrodden and to share with the less fortunate and were one of the first African American homeowners in Miami-Dade County. Her brother, the late Thirlee Smith, Jr., rose to become the first full-time African American reporter at the Miami Herald.

Wilson earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Fisk University in 1963 and her Master of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Miami in 1972. She served as a teacher and as assistant educational coordinator for Head Start in Miami. For a short time, she left the working world to raise her three children, but the calling of education proved too strong. She returned to serve as the assistant principal of Skyway Elementary School, later becoming the school’s principal. In 1992, the school was honored by Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander as part of President George H.W. Bush’s “America 2000” plan to upgrade national education standards. From 1992 to 1998, she served on the Miami-Dade County School Board, where she helped introduce an African American history component into the teaching curriculum.

In 1998, Wilson successfully ran for a seat in the Florida State House of Representatives, where she served as Minority Whip for four years until 2002. From 2002 to 2010, she served in the Florida State Senate, where she served as Minority Leader Pro Tempore and as Minority Lead Whip. She soon became known as the “Conscience of the Senate” for her willingness to tackle historically ignored issues. Her achievements include working with Republican Governor Jeb Bush to remove the Confederate flag from the State Capitol, mandating HIV/AIDS testing for newly-released prisoners, opposing high-stakes standardized testing , pushing for a ban of the term “illegal alien” in state public records, and partnering with Republican Governor Charlie Crist to restore voting rights for ex-felons. Wilson has a long history of working with her colleagues across the aisle to pass bipartisan legislation.

Wilson has been heralded by such diverse groups as the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, the American Cancer Society, Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, NAACP, and her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., where she served as the Director of the South Atlantic Region for four years and as Director of AKA Connections, the political action arm, for six years. She is also a 25 year member of the prestigious LINKS, Inc.

In 2010, Wilson emerged from a competitive nine person primary to win election overwhelmingly to represent the 17th District of Florida in the United States House of Representatives. The 17th District includes Northern Miami-Dade and Southeast Broward Counties.

Frederica Wilson remains an educator and principal at heart. She strongly believes we must rededicate ourselves to our children through a renewed focused on education. It is her deep belief in the promise and potential of our youth that motivates her each and every day.

As a School Board member, Wilson saw the necessity for a program to intervene in the lives of at-risk male youth at an early age. To this end, she founded the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, which has grown into a national model for dropout prevention programs. The program, run through the Miami-Dade Public Schools system, has awarded more than $5 million in scholarships to minority boys since its creation in 1992 and helped thousands of young men turn their lives around. The program currently operates in over 110 Miami-Dade County public schools, serving more than 6000 youth. Wilson also established a Role Models chapter in the Pinellas County School District. In 1997, the program was honored with the Teaching Example for the Nation Award by President Bill Clinton at the Summit for America’s Future in Philadelphia, PA.

Frederica Wilson remains an influential force for the South Florida community. At her consecration ceremony at the Historic St. Agnes’ Episcopal Church in January 2011, more than 2,000 members of the community attended to bless the beginning of her time in federal office.

In Congress, she serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where she is focused on America’s role on the global stage, particularly in Haiti and the Caribbean. As a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, she is committed to bringing jobs back to our communities and increasing STEM (Science, Technology, Energy, and Math) funding for our schools.

Frederica Wilson understands that as long as individuals and families find themselves staring at record unemployment, home foreclosures and business failures, our country cannot get back on track. Providing for those who cannot care for themselves is not just an obligation, but a strategy to get our economy on sound footing.

Wilson is widowed and is the proud mother of three children, Nicole, Kesha, and Paul, and five beautiful grandchildren.

Biography from Frederica S. Wilson for Congress

About Congresswoman Frederica Wilson

In her more than a decade of service in the Florida State Legislature, as a State Representative (1998-2002) and State Senator (2002-present), Senator Wilson has already represented many of the communities making up Congressional District 17. She has also served the community as a teacher, principal and school board member.

“This is a District I already know well,” Senator Wilson said. “These are the same schools, businesses and families I’ve worked with and fought for my whole career. And just as I’ve made sure these communities had a voice in Tallahassee, I will do the same for them in Washington.”

Senator Wilson continued, “Our nation faces unprecedented challenges. Families are losing their jobs and their homes. Schools are struggling to find the resources to educate our children. Our communities need help now, and they need leaders in Washington that understand that. And I do.”

A Lifetime of Service

Her entire career, Senator Wilson has stood up for those without a voice. As a school principal she stood up for her students and their families and fought against an environmentally dangerous composting plant that was built across the street from her school. She won the battle, and the Miami Dade County Commission was forced to close the plant.

She also took a stand when Haitian refugees were incarcerated in a local detention center in 1984.  Senator Wilson personally and tirelessly lobbied Congress for the fair treatment of these refugees. And because of her efforts, all of the women held in the detention center were released.  Senator Wilson was later named to the Haitian Refugee Center Board of Directors in recognition of her committed service to the Haitian community.

As a member of the Miami-Dade County School Board, Senator Wilson introduced reading labs and an African-American history curriculum into our schools, as well as a dirty-dancing ban in our community. She also established herself as a leader prepared to tackle the county’s most difficult challenges.

The 5000 Role Model of Excellence Program

It was while she was serving on the School Board that Senator Wilson saw the need for a program to intervene in the lives of at-risk youth before it was too late. Many said the problem was insurmountable, but Senator Wilson knew she could make a difference.

She founded the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Program, which has become a national model for drop-out prevention programs,.  Its foundation has awarded more than $5 million dollars in scholarships to minority boys since its inception in 1992 and has helped thousands of young boys turn around their lives. It currently operates in 110 Miami-Dade County Schools and helps more than 6000 youth. The Program has received numerous awards including Florida’s Promise to Youth award and the President’s Summit for America’s Future Teaching Example for the Nation award.

“We were losing generations of our children. They didn’t believe the American Dream was for them. They didn’t believe in the future because they didn’t believe they had one, and that’s why I started the 5000 Role Models Program,”  Senator Wilson explained. “The program molds good men, good husbands and good fathers for the next generation.”

A Record of Accomplishment

“Change only happens when someone rolls up their sleeves and takes a stand. And it’s that determination and commitment that I’ll take with me to Washington. We’ve got a lot of challenges in front of us, and the time for talk is over.  It’s time to roll up our sleeves and bring the change our families need.”

As a state legislator, Senator Wilson has been a vigilant supporter of quality public education. Her tenure in Tallahassee has been recognized both for her effectiveness and her ability to work across party lines. While others have merely spoken about bipartisanship, Senator Wilson has practiced it. She worked with then-Governor Jeb Bush to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol, to start HIV/AIDS testing in prisons and to reform the implementation of the FCAT.  She joined with Governor Charlie Crist to achieve the restoration of voting rights for felons. Senator Wilson’s legislative career has been one of significant accomplishment.

During the 2008 Presidential contest, Senator Wilson was among the first elected officials in Florida to endorse Barack Obama and served as one of the campaign’s surrogate speakers. She was also elected as one of Florida’s 27 electors for the Obama Presidency.

Honors and Awards

  • The National Medical Association, Scroll of Merit for Public Education Advocacy, 2008
  • American School Health Association, Legislator of the Year, 2008
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority International, Rosa Parks Coretta Scott King Award, 2008
  • Florida Association of Counties (FAC), County Partner Award, 2008
  • Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, Leaders in Learning Award, 2008
  • NAACP Milton Morris Award, 2007
  • Jessie C. Trice Humanitarian Award, 2007
  • Liberty City’s Community Action Agency, Community Service Award, 2007
  • Miami Dade College, Pathway to Opportunity Appreciation Award, 2007
  • Florida Association of School Administrators, Legislator of the Year, 2007
  • Florida Association of Women Lawyers, Legislative Recognition Award, 2007
  • SEIU Florida Healthcare Union, Legislative Hero Award, 2006
  • Barry University, SGA Acknowledgement of Florida’s Residents Access Grant Award, 2006
  • City of Miami, Women Builders of Community Dreams Award, 2006
  • Florida Memorial University, SGA Leadership Character and Service Award, 2006
  • Holy Faith Missionary Baptist Church, Participation Award, 2006
  • Miami-Dade Police Department, Appreciation Award, 2006
  • The Historic St. Agnes Episcopal Church, 108th Anniversary Appreciation Award, 2006
  • FAU, Small Business Development Appreciation Award, 2006
  • Day of the Child, Mentoring Award, 2006
  • Project H.O.P.E., Katrina Humanitarian Award, 2006
  • South Florida Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Audrey McCollum Scholarship Award, 2006
  • CEO Magazine, Legislative Action Recognition, 2006
  • Community Action Agency, Youth Leadership Award, 2006
  • I.B.P.O.E. of W., Antlers Temple #39, Legislative Excellence Award, 2006
  • Community Health of South Dade, Inc., Health Hero Award, 2006
  • Health Council of South Florida, Inc., Health Leadership Award, 2006
  • National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Greater Miami Chapter, Candace Award, 2006
  • Kiwanis Club of Miami Shores, North Dade Exemplary Service Award, 2006
  • Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, Rosemary Barkett Award, 2006
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Ft. Pierce, FL Chapter, Soror of the Year, 2005
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Ft. Walton Beach, FL Chapter, Soror of the Year, 2005
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Thomasville, GA Chapter, Soror of the Year, 2005
  • Carrie P. Meek Education Leadership Achievement Award, 2005
  • Miami Gardens Jaycees, Distinguished Service Award, 2005
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., Emerald Service Award, 2005
  • The Links, Inc., Links of Gold Award, 2005
  • Community Action Agency, Citizen of the Year Award, 2004
  • American Cancer Society, Florida Chapter, Legislative Leadership Award, 2004
  • Florida Education Association, Educator of the Year, 2004
  • Association of Black Health-System Pharmacists, Legislator Achievement Award, 2004
  • Easter Seals of Miami-Dade, Legislator of the Year Award, 2004
  • Northside Seventh Day Adventist Church (Miami), Distinguished Community Leader Award, 2004
  • The Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc., Chairman’s Award, 2004
  • Sierra Club, Florida Chapter, Legislative Recognition Award, 2004
  • NAACP, Florida Chapter, Morris Milton Memorial Award, 2001
  • American Red Cross, Spectrum Award, 1998
  • African-American Achiever Award for Education, 1998
  • President’s Summit for America’s Future, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Miami Delegate, 1997
  • Miami-Dade County “Keep Me Safe” summit, march, and candlelight vigil, founder, 1997
  • State of Florida “STOP DAY,” Enough is Enough, founder, 1996

Do you know where you still on the political spectrum? See “Political Beliefs, Where Are You” to find out where you stand.

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