Maurice Ferré, Miami’s First Hispanic Mayor, Dies at 84


While still a teenager, Mr. Ferré met María Mercedes Malaussena, a young Venezuelan who lived next door to his parents on Brickell and who would become an artist. They were married in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, in 1955.

His wife survives him, as do two daughters, Mary Isabel Ferré Succar and Florence Mercedes Ferré; three sons, José Antonio, Carlos and Maurice Raimundo Ferré; 12 grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; a sister, Christina Ferré Cohen; and a brother, José.

A sixth son, Francisco Ferré, was among about 150 people who died in 1995 when American Airlines Flight 965 from Miami crashed in a mountainous area of Colombia. Francisco’s wife and 3-month-old son also died in the crash. Maurice Ferré, then a Miami-Dade County commissioner, flew to Colombia and identified the remains.

Once out of college, Mr. Ferré worked for the family business, which by 1960 had expanded into the cement industry. He was head of the company at the center of their holdings, Maule Industries, when it went into bankruptcy in 1975 after an ill-timed expansion attempt collapsed during a recession.

Mr. Ferré won a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 1967. But he quickly jumped to the Miami City Commission, where he proved to be a savvy operator who could cater by turns to the city’s white, black and Hispanic populations.

As mayor, his powers were limited. But as the only Latino mayor of a major American city at the time, Mr. Ferré, who was bilingual, gained national exposure. He called police officers “bums” — and then apologized — in 1980 after they had vandalized looters’ cars during rioting that broke out when a jury acquitted four white Miami police officers in the killing of Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance executive. In 1981, he denounced the detention of hundreds of Haitian migrants under a Reagan administration policy to stem the flow of so-called boat people to the United States.

Mr. Ferré twice attempted a political comeback after leaving office but lost both times — first in a bid to regain the mayoralty in 2001 and then to win a United States Senate seat in 2010.

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