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Bob Graham, former Florida governor and US senator, dies at 87

David Smiley, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI — Bob Graham, the former Florida governor and U.S. senator who ushered in the state’s era of school-competency testing, crafted the foundation for its modern environmental policies and grappled with the mass influx of Cuban rafters in the early 1980s, died Tuesday night, according to his family. He was 87.

Graham left his fingerprints throughout the state over his more than four decades in Florida politics, during which he became known for his pragmatic, centrist approach.

As governor, his 1983 “Save Our Everglades” restoration program served as the foundation for four decades of state and federal efforts to bring back and preserve the natural flow of the River of Grass.

As a senator, he pushed for greater transparency around the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and earned a reputation as a conscientious objector, becoming one of just 23 U.S. senators to oppose then-President George W. Bush’s request to authorize the use of force preceding the 2003 Iraq War.

And on the stump, his “work days” — a series of more-than 400 campaign stunts that brought him closer to Floridians by working everyman jobs like garbage-loader, short-order cook and bulletproof-vest maker — created a model for politicians eager to appear blue collar.

“Clearly, it wasn’t a lack of other career options that has kept Bob in the Senate for 18 years,” said then-Sen. Tom Daschle said as Graham retired from politics in 2005 following a short-lived run for president. “What has kept him here is simple. It is his love of Florida, and of this country. It is a sense of responsibility that he inherited from his father and that has animated his whole life.”


Early Life

A vestige of old “Miamuh,” Graham was born Daniel Robert Graham on Nov. 9, 1936, in Coral Gables to Hilda Simmons, a schoolteacher, and Ernest “Cap” Graham, a Florida state senator and sugar cane and dairy farmer. Graham was the youngest of four children in an influential family.

His oldest brother, Philip Graham, would become publisher of The Washington Post in 1946, a title he held until his death in 1963. Another of Graham’s brothers, William Graham, became president of The Graham Companies, which developed the town of Miami Lakes beginning in the early 1960s.

Bob Graham attended Miami Senior High School in the 1950s, and was student body president his senior year. He went on to graduate with a bachelors in political science from the University of Florida in 1959, the same year he married Adele Khoury, of Miami Shores, with whom he had four daughters: former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Cissy Graham McCullough, Suzanne Graham Gibson and Kendall Graham Elias.


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