Remembering Bob Graham: A Legacy of Civility and Service

In Miami Lakes, Florida, family, friends, and colleagues gathered at the Miami Lakes United Church of Christ to honor the memory of Bob Graham, the esteemed former governor of Florida and U.S. senator, who passed away last month at the age of 87. The memorial service, attended by about 200 people, featured heartfelt tributes and the music of Jimmy Buffett, reflecting Graham’s deep Florida roots.

A Man of the People

Throughout his career as a two-term governor and three-term senator, Bob Graham was celebrated for his approachability and unwavering commitment to civility, characteristics that were highlighted during the memorial. His friend and former general counsel, Robin Gibson, remembered him as a man whose public demeanor was genuinely reflective of his private character, devoid of pretense or pettiness.

A Life in Public Service

Graham was known for his unique practice of “workdays” where he would perform a variety of jobs alongside everyday Floridians, from teaching and construction to bellhop and farm laboring. This practice not only kept him grounded but also deeply informed his understanding and policymaking. According to his longtime chief of staff, Buddy Shorstein, Graham’s dedication to understanding the lives of his constituents was a cornerstone of his approach to governance.

Legacy of Humility and Practicality

The service also highlighted Graham’s personal side, with anecdotes that painted a picture of a man both frugal and pragmatic. His daughter, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, shared fond memories of her father’s simple culinary attempts and his frugal, yet content nature. Her stories, filled with warmth and humor, underscored the humble lifestyle Graham maintained despite his significant political influence.

Reflections on What Could Have Been

The service also touched upon “what might have been,” with Shorstein speculating on the impact Graham could have had on national politics had he been selected as a vice-presidential candidate, suggesting that his involvement might have altered the course of events like the 2000 presidential election and subsequent historical events.

An Inspiring Figure

Graham’s legacy as a leader who consistently prioritized the good of the public over politics left a lasting impression on all who knew him. His daughter closed her remarks by expressing her enduring pride and admiration for her father, describing him as her lifelong inspiration and role model.

Bob Graham’s life and career remain a testament to the power of respectful, informed, and compassionate leadership—a beacon of civility in an often tumultuous political landscape.

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