At a Glance
- Birthday: September 25, 1953
- Hometown: New York, N.Y.
- Alma Mater: Adelphi University, B.A. 1975; Howard University, J.D. 1978
- Spouse: Simon-Marie
- Religion: Baptist
- Committees: House Financial Services ; Foreign Affairs
- DC Office: 2342 Rayburn House Office Building, 202-225-2161
- District Offices: Far Rockaway, 718-327-9791; St. Albans, 718-725-6000
- Web site
Path to Power
Born in 1953, Meeks saw two distinct sides of New York during his childhood. He lived in housing projects in East Harlem but was bused to school in Manhattan's more affluent Upper East Side. His father, a former heavyweight boxer, worked as a taxi driver and a porter on Broadway, where he would bring Meeks to shows at the Schubert Theater. "He used to tell me to stay in school and get a good education or else I would end up breaking my back like him," Meeks said of his father in 2001.
Drawing inspiration from the career of Thurgood Marshall, Meeks said he wanted to be a lawyer from a young age. "I looked up to him because he was constantly fighting to change the system," he said. "He was someone I really admired because he was trying to make conditions better for people like me."
Meeks has hewed close to the party line in the 111th Congress, voting with Democrats 98.8 percent of the time.
He has staked out liberal positions on most social issues: He supports abortion rights, opposes the death penalty, and voted against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Meeks has close ties to black leaders in New York who were key in his election to Congress in 1998. They include the dean of the state's congressional delegation, Rep. Charles Rangel (D), the Rev. Al Sharpton (D), and the former governor, David Paterson (D). He has also built strong relationships with black leaders nationally, and particularly in South Carolina, where his parents were born. There he has counted Reps. James Clyburn (D) and former Rep. John Spratt (D) as allies.
The congressman has been an active surrogate in each of the last two presidential elections. In 2004, he was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), even as many of his New York colleagues backed Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) in the Democratic primary. Meeks was a national co-chairman for Kerry and served as one of his top liaisons to the African American community.