Sun. May 19th, 2024

Bob Graham, ex-U.S. senator and Florida governor, dies at 87

By 37ci3 Apr17,2024



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Former US Senator and two-term Florida Governor Bob Graham gained national prominence as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. 2001 terrorist attacks and as an early critic Iraq war, is dead. He was 87 years old.

Graham’s family announced the death Tuesday in a statement released to X by his daughter, Gwen Graham.

“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of a visionary leader, a dedicated public servant and more importantly, a beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather,” the family said.

Graham, who served three terms in the Senate, made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, emphasizing his opposition to the invasion of Iraq.

But his bid was delayed by heart surgery in January 2003, and he never gained enough traction to hold on to voters and dropped out that October. He did not seek re-election in 2004 and was replaced by Republican Mel Martinez.

Graham was a man of many quirks. He perfected the “weekdays” political gimmick of taking on a variety of jobs from stable wrangling to FBI agent one day, and he kept a meticulous diary, noting nearly everyone he talked to, everything he ate, TV shows he watched and even golf games he played.

Graham noted that the notebooks were a working tool for him, and he avoided describing his emotions or personal feelings in them.

“I review them for calls to make, notes to dictate, meetings I want to follow up on, and things people promise to do,” he said.

Graham was an early opponent of the Iraq war, saying it diverted America’s attention to fighting terrorism based in Afghanistan. He also criticized President George W. Bush for not planning an invasion of Iraq after the U.S. military toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Graham said Bush lured the United States into the war by exaggerating the threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, which were never found. He argued that Bush misrepresented intelligence and that it was more serious than the sex abuse problems that led to the House impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. This led to his brief, unsuccessful presidential bid.

“The quagmire in Iraq is a distraction created by the Bush administration and the Bush administration alone,” Graham said in 2003.

During his 18 years in Washington, Graham worked well with colleagues from both parties, most notably Republican Connie Mack of Florida during their decades together in the Senate.

As a politician, few were better. Florida voters hardly considered him a wealthy Harvard-educated lawyer.

Graham’s political career spanned five decades, beginning with his election to the Florida House of Representatives in 1966.

He won a seat in the state Senate in 1970, then was elected governor in 1978. He was re-elected in 1982. Four years later, he won the first of three terms in the U.S. Senate, unseating Republican incumbent Paula Hawkins.

Graham was widely popular among Florida voters—he was reelected by wide margins in 1992 and 1998, carrying 63 of 67 states. In that last election, he defeated Charlie Christie, who later served as Republican governor from 2007-2011.

“He blew me out of the water, and I got a better understanding of why during the campaign,” Crist said Tuesday night. “I learned to respect him more than before and to love him as a good, decent person.”

Crist, who has since switched parties and most recently served as a U.S. representative, said Graham influenced him.

“I always felt that when he was governor, he was trying to lead the people of Florida — not in any way political or partisan — and I took that to heart and tried to emulate him in a small way,” Crist said.

House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi called Graham a “patriotic American” and thanked him for his “distinguished public service.” He highlighted his work on the 9/11 investigation and said he was “boldly opposed to going to war in Iraq.”

“He brought his love for his family and the state of Florida to the Senate, where he served with great dignity and courage,” he said.

Even when he was in Washington, Graham kept his eye on the state and leadership in Tallahassee.

When Gov. Jeb Bush and the Republican-controlled Legislature abolished the Board of Regents in 2001, Graham saw it as a move to politicize the public university system. He spearheaded a successful petition next year for a state constitutional amendment creating a Board of Regents to take over the role of regents.

Daniel Robert Graham was born on November 9, 1936, in Coral Gables, where his father, Ernest “Cap” Graham, had moved from South Dakota and built a large dairy farm. As a teenager, young Bob milked cows, built fences and collected manure. One of his half-brothers, Phillip Graham, was the publisher of The Washington Post and Newsweek until he committed suicide in 1963, just a year after Bob Graham graduated from Harvard Law School.

Graham was student body president at Miami Senior High School and attended the University of Florida, graduating in 1959.

In 1966, he was elected to the Florida Legislature, where he focused primarily on education and health issues.

Graham began a tough job as Florida’s chief executive and “Gov. Jello” for some early indecision. He shook off that tag by managing several serious crises.

As governor, he also signed numerous death warrants, co-founded the Save the Manatee Club with entertainer Jimmy Buffett, and led efforts to create several environmental programs.

Graham pushed through a bond program to buy up beaches and barrier islands threatened by development and started the Save the Everglades program to protect the state’s water supply, wetlands and endangered species.

Graham was also credited with 408 “work days,” including stints as a housewife, ring announcer, flight attendant and arson investigator. They grew out of a teaching position as a member of the Florida Senate Education Committee and then became a campaign gimmick that helped him connect with the average voter.

“That’s been a very important part of my development as a public servant, learning on a very human level what the people of Florida expect, what they want, what they want, and then try to interpret that and translate that into policy that will do that. make their lives better,” Graham said in 2004 as he completed his last job as a Christmas gift wrapper.

Since leaving public life in 2005, Graham has spent much of his time at the University of Florida’s public policy center, which bears his name, and pushed the Legislature to require more civics classes in the state’s public schools.

Graham was one of five members appointed by President Barack Obama in June 2010 to an independent commission to investigate BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which endangered marine life and beaches along several southeastern states.



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By 37ci3

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