Lawton M. Chiles Jr.
Fourth generation Florida native who became an extraordinary public servant and basically gave his entire life to the people of the state. Selfdescribed “he-coon” (biggest and craftiest raccoon) of political strategy and a Florida political icon known for his folksy demeanor. He first made his mark in state politics (serving in both House and Senate for combined 12 years), became a noted U.S. Senator (18 years), and returned home to accomplish even more for Florida as Governor during the last eight years of his life. Famous for his advocacy for children, the environment and his fight against the tobacco industry. Upon his death, Chiles was recognized by President Bill Clinton as “an indefatigable champion of Florida’s children and families, steadfast protector of the environment, a statesman, role model and one of the most successful and respected public officials in the latter half of the 20th Century.”
Born 1930 in Lakeland. Married Rhea Grafton, and they had four children: Tandy Chiles Barrett, Lawton (Bud) Chiles III, Ed Chiles and Rhea Gay Chiles. He is survived by his wife and children.
College Education / Achievements
- B.A. 1952; J. D. 1955, University of Florida. Blue Key, Alpha Tau Omega, Phi Delta Phi
- College of Law announces, 2002, expanded law library to be known as Lawton Chiles Legal Information Center
- Designated Distinguished Alumnus, University of Florida, 1972
- Practiced law in Lakeland (Carr Chiles & Ellsworth) starting in 1955
- Chairman, Florida Law Revision Commission, 1968-70
- U.S. Army artillery officer, Korean Conflict, 1953-1954
- Florida House of Representatives, 1959-66
- Florida Senate, 1966-70
- Became known as ‘Walkin’ Lawton’ in ’70 U.S. Senate campaign (1,003 miles across state in 91 days, Pensacola to Dade County)
- U.S. Senate, 1971-89, succeeding boyhood idol Sen. Spessard Holland
- Introduced in ’71 first measure to create Big Cypress National Preserve in Everglades. Proposal for open congressional and federal agency meetings passed in ’75
- Successfully opens Florida House in Washington after campaign with wife for donations. Established, chaired National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality. Special Committee on Aging, Chairman of Committee on the Budget and used consensus building/bipartisanship to control budget deficit.
- Governor of Florida, 1991-98 (During ’90 campaign, set $100 contribution limit)
- Initially faced crises of state mired in recession, Hurricane Andrew and tourist murders.
- Accomplishments included privatizing Florida Department of Commerce (replacing with Enterprise Florida, national model for publicprivate partnership); appointing more African- American, Hispanic and female judges than any governor; ‘Champion of Children’ and their causes, including implementation of Healthy Start healthcare. Won multi-billion dollar suit against tobacco industry
Associations / Organizations / Honors
- Multiple Florida schools named in his honor, including one in Gainesville (2525 Schoolhouse Road) and one in Orlando (11001 Bloomfield Drive). Nickname of Orlando’s Lawton Chiles Elementary School athletic and competitive teams: The Walkin’ Lawtons.