Florida Remembers Senator Bob Graham's Legacy of Service

Former US Senator Bob Graham, a Florida political giant, passed away on April 16, 2024, at 87, and was remembered at a memorial service on May 11. Graham was celebrated for his commitment to environmental causes, bipartisanship, and civility during his nearly four-decade career.

Bijay Laxmi
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Florida Remembers Senator Bob Graham's Legacy of Service

Florida Remembers Senator Bob Graham's Legacy of Service

Former US Senator Bob Graham, a towering figure in Florida politics who passed away on April 16, 2024, at the age of 87, was remembered by family, friends, and colleagues at a memorial service on May 11. The service, held at Miami Lakes United Church of Christ, celebrated Graham's life and legacy of public service spanning nearly four decades.

Why this matters: The life and legacy of Senator Bob Graham serve as a model for bipartisan cooperation and commitment to public service, demonstrating the importance of civility and environmental stewardship in politics. His passing highlights the need for continued advocacy on critical issues, such as environmental conservation, and the importance of inspiring future generations of leaders to follow in his footsteps.

Graham, a Harvard-educated lawyer whose family built Miami Lakes, served as Florida's governor from 1979 to 1987 and as a US senator for three terms from 1987 to 2005. He was known for his commitment to environmental causes, particularly the Save the Everglades program, and his ability to work across the aisle.

At the memorial service, Graham was remembered for his civil and friendly demeanor, even behind closed doors. "There was no macho profanity. There was no agenda. There was no pettiness. There was no gossip. It was, 'How do we get to make the best decision for the best reason?' It was that simple," said Robin Gibson, Graham's general counsel as governor.

Graham was also known for his meticulous note-taking after interactions and his "workdays," where he would spend a shift at a different ordinary job each month to understand the experiences of average Floridians. He completed over 400 workdays, including jobs as a teacher, bellhop, construction worker, and farm laborer.

"The most important, consistent lesson he taught was good public policy makes good politics," said Buddy Shorstein, Graham's longtime friend and chief of staff. Graham's eldest daughter, former US Rep. Gwen Graham, added, "There has never been a day I haven't been proud to be Bob Graham's daughter."

Born on November 9, 1936, in Coral Gables, Florida, Graham attended Miami Senior High School and graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Florida in 1959. He earned a law degree from Harvard University in 1962 and entered politics in 1966, serving in both houses of the Florida Legislature before becoming governor and then a US senator.

Throughout his career, Graham dealt with several crises, including the influx of Cuban refugees in the 1980s and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was one of 23 senators to oppose President George W. Bush's request to invade Iraq in 2003. Graham is survived by his wife of 65 years, Adele, their four daughters, 11 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Graham "one of our state's and nation's greatest elected officials," while Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, "I think he was truly one of the last statesmen that could work across the aisle." As Florida mourns the loss of a political giant, Graham's legacy of service, civility, and commitment to the environment will continue to inspire future generations.

Key Takeaways

  • Former US Senator Bob Graham passed away on April 16, 2024, at 87.
  • Graham served as Florida's governor (1979-1987) and US senator (1987-2005).
  • He was known for environmental causes, bipartisanship, and civility in politics.
  • Graham completed over 400 "workdays" to understand average Floridians' experiences.
  • His legacy inspires future generations to prioritize public service and environmental stewardship.