Ex-Legislator Turned Governor Passes Away

(ReliableNews.org) – It’s hard to imagine a Democrat being a commanding force in Florida politics. That’s exactly what Bob Graham was and remained, long after he left office. Now the popular former governor has passed away.

On April 16, Gwen Graham, the assistant secretary of the US Department of Education, posted a statement from her family on X, formerly Twitter, announcing her father’s death that day. He was 87 years old and died at a retirement community in Gainesville.

Daniel Robert “Bob” Graham, a Florida native, was born in Coral Gables in 1936. His mom was a teacher and his father was a mining engineer, dairy farmer, and state senator. Graham’s older brother, Phil Graham, was a co-owner and publisher of The Washington Post.

Graham went to the University of Florida and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1959. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Laws from Harvard in 1962. Eight years later, in 1970, Graham was elected to the Florida Senate. He was re-elected in 1972 and 1976.

During Graham’s time in the state Senate, he worked 8-hour days at the same jobs his constituents did. He worked as a tomato picker, bellhop, pooper scooper in horse stalls, construction worker, and other professions. He didn’t allow the press to get too close and always worked the full day, to get a real feel for the job.

In 1978, Florida voters elected Graham to serve as governor. He was re-elected in 1982. During his two terms as the state’s leader, he worked to improve its universities, he worked to restore the Everglades, more than a million jobs were added to the economy, and, for the first time in history, the state’s per capita income exceeded the US average. He also proposed the updated design for the Skyway Bridge after its deadly collapse in 1980. His design was chosen and the iconic bridge is now called the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge. When Graham left office, he had an 83% approval rating.

Graham went on to run for US Senate in 1986. He served three terms before retiring in 2005. While in the Senate, the former governor served as the chair of the Intelligence Committee. He was a fierce opponent of President George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks and the US involvement in the War on Terror.

The former senator also ran for the 2004 Democratic nomination for president. Heart surgery put him behind in the race and he couldn’t catch up again. In his final years, Graham taught at Harvard University, established the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, and tried to mold future generations in other ways.

Graham is survived by his loving wife, Adele, of more than 60 years, four children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

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