Lawton Chiles

Lawton Chiles
Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr.
41st Governor of Florida
In office
January 8, 1991 – December 12, 1998
Lieutenant Buddy MacKay
Preceded by Bob Martinez
Succeeded by Buddy MacKay
United States Senator
from Florida
In office
January 3, 1971 – January 3, 1989
Preceded by Spessard Holland
Succeeded by Connie Mack III
Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget
In office
January 3, 1987 – January 3, 1989
Preceded by Pete Domenici
Succeeded by Jim Sasser
Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Frank Church
Succeeded by H. John Heinz III
Personal details
Born April 3, 1930(1930-04-03)
Polk County, Florida
Died December 12, 1998(1998-12-12) (aged 68)
Tallahassee, Florida
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Rhea Chiles
Alma mater University of Florida
Religion Presbyterianism
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1953–1954
Battles/wars Korean War
Pair of Lawton Chiles' walking shoes on display at the Florida State Capitol.

Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr. (April 3, 1930 – December 12, 1998) was an American politician from the US state of Florida. In a career spanning four decades, Chiles, a Democrat who never lost an election, served in the Florida House of Representatives (1958–1966), the Florida State Senate (1966–1970), the United States Senate (1971–1989), and as the 41st Governor of Florida from 1991 until his death in office in the last month of his second term as governor. He was the first Democratic Governor in state history to have a Republican-controlled legislature.


Early life

Chiles was born in Polk County, Florida near Lakeland. There he attended public school, then went on to the University of Florida. At UF, Chiles was active in student politics, inducted into the University of Florida Hall of Fame (the most prestigious honor a student can receive at UF) and inducted into Florida Blue Key. He was also a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. He graduated in 1952. Following his college years he went to Korea as an artillery officer in the US Army. After the war, Chiles returned to the University of Florida for law school, graduating in 1955; he passed the state bar exam that year and went into practice in Lakeland. He was married to Rhea Chiles.


In 1958, Chiles, a Democrat, was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. He served there until 1966, when he was elected to a seat in the state senate, which he held until 1970. While serving in the state senate, Chiles served on the 1968 Florida Law Revision Commission. During his time in the state legislature, Chiles continued to work as a lawyer and developer back home in Lakeland. He was one of the initial investors in the Red Lobster restaurant chain.

The 1,003-mile walk

In 1970, Chiles decided to run for a seat in the United States Senate. At the time, despite his 12 years in the state legislature, he was largely unknown outside his Lakeland-based district. To generate some media coverage across the state, Chiles embarked upon a 1,003-mile, 91-day walk across Florida from Pensacola to Key West. The walk earned him the recognition he sought, as well as the nickname that would follow him throughout his political career– "Walkin' Lawton". In his journal Chiles wrote that sometimes he walked alone, while other times he met ordinary Floridians along the way. In later years, Chiles would recall the walk allowed him to see Florida's natural beauty, as well as the state's problems, with fresh eyes. After the walk, Chiles was elected easily.

The Senate

Chiles was re-elected to the U.S. Senate twice, in 1976 and 1982. Chiles, never flashy, was considered a moderate lawmaker who rarely made waves. He served as the Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging of the 96th Congress (1979–1981), and in the 100th Congress (1987–1989) served as chairman of the influential Senate Budget Committee. While heading the Budget Committee, he played a key role in the 1987 revision of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act.

Chiles underwent quadruple-bypass heart surgery in 1985. After his recovery, he became increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of work in the Senate, complaining that it was too difficult to get anything done. He announced in December 1987 that he would not seek re-election the next year.[1] Chiles was succeeded by Republican Connie Mack.

Governor of Florida

After the surgery, Chiles developed clinical depression,[2] and was treated with Prozac. He retired from the Senate in 1989 and intended to retire from politics entirely. However, several supporters convinced him to enter the 1990 Florida Governor's race against Republican incumbent Bob Martinez. During the Democratic Party primary, his opponent Bill Nelson attempted to make an issue of Chiles' age and health, a strategy that backfired badly in a state with a large retiree population.

Chiles ran a campaign to "reinvent" the state's government, and defeated Martinez to take office in 1991. During his first term as Governor, Chiles managed to accomplish very little. Although he developed ambitious health-care and tax reform packages, neither passed in the hostile state legislature. The early years of his term were troubled by a national economic recession that severely damaged Florida's tourism-based economy, and by Hurricane Andrew, which struck near Homestead in August, 1992.

Chiles ran for re-election in 1994 against Jeb Bush. Republican candidate Bush ran a television advertisement which featured the mother of a teenage girl who had been abducted and murdered many years before. The mother stated that "Her killer is still on death row, and we're still waiting for justice. We won't get it from Lawton Chiles because he's too liberal on crime", referring to Chiles not signing the convicted killer's death warrant. Chiles, then governor, responded that he did not sign a death warrant because the case was still on appeal. The Democratic governor further claimed a record of support for the death penalty, having presided over 18 executions during his two terms (among them the first Floridian woman executed since 1848). Moreover, after the botched electrocution of Pedro Medina in 1997, and despite significant public criticism, Chiles refused to allow prescription the use of lethal injection as a lawful form of execution. The new method was introduced under Bush's administration in 1999 after the execution of Allen Lee Davis.

Chiles' second term as Governor was notable as the first time in state history that a Democratic Governor had a legislature controlled by the Republican Party. Despite this, he had some successes, including a successful lawsuit he and state Attorney General Bob Butterworth filed against the tobacco industry, which resulted in an $11.3 billion settlement for the state. He also won approval for a $2.7 billion statewide school construction program.

In 1995 Chiles sought treatment for a neurological problem, after he awoke with nausea, slurred speech, and loss of coordination. He recovered fully.

Ineligible to run a third time, Chiles supported the Lieutenant Governor, Kenneth H. "Buddy" MacKay, in the 1998 Florida governor's race against Jeb Bush. Bush, however, scored an easy victory over MacKay. On December 12 that year, just three weeks before his long-awaited retirement was to begin, Chiles suffered a fatal heart attack while exercising on a cycling machine in the Governor's mansion gymnasium. Funeral services were held at Faith Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, following a funeral procession that traced part of his walk from the 1970 Senate campaign, from the panhandle town of Century to Tallahassee. He was succeeded in office by MacKay, who served until Bush's term began on January 5, 1999.


Legislative and executive programs

Chiles was known as a health care and children's advocate throughout his career. He emphasized health coverage for the uninsured and led a campaign to create the National Commission for Prevention of Infant Mortality in the late 1980s. In 1994 he fought for the creation of regional health care alliances throughout the state, which allow small businesses to pool their health care dollars and broaden coverage while saving money. He also created the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

In 1992, Chiles created the Florida Healthy Start program to provide a comprehensive prenatal and infant care program available to all pregnant women and infants across the state; since the program's inception the state's infant mortality rate has dropped 18%. In 1996, Chiles appointed a Governor's Commission on Education to examine the state's school system. One of the significant recommendations that came from that commission eventually led to the highly controversial 2002 state constitutional amendment restricting Florida's school class sizes.

In 1997, pro-life advocacy group Choose Life collected 10,000 signatures and filed the $30,000 fee required under Florida law at the time to submit an application for a new specialty plate. State Senator Tom Lee sponsored a bill in support of the tag's creation. The bill passed both houses of the Florida Legislature in early 1998, but was vetoed by Chiles, who stated that license plates are not the "proper forum for debate" on political issues.[3][4]

Judicial appointments

Perhaps his greatest legacy was his impact on the Florida Supreme Court, where his appointments continued to have a major impact on state and national events long after Chiles' death. Chiles appointed Justice Major B. Harding in 1991, Justice Charles T. Wells in 1994, Justice Harry Lee Anstead in 1994, Justice Barbara J. Pariente in 1997, and Justice R. Fred Lewis in 1998. Chiles and incoming Gov. Jeb Bush jointly appointed Justice Peggy A. Quince in 1998 just a few days before Chiles' death. Quince was jointly appointed because her term as Justice would begin the exact moment that Bush's first term as Governor began, so there was a legal question which Governor had the authority to appoint her. Bush and Chiles agreed to make a joint appointment to avoid a lawsuit over the question.

Thus, at one point, Chiles had appointed five of the seven Justices and had jointly appointed the sixth. Chiles' appointments formed the Supreme Court majorities that decided the following major cases:

  • In 2006, the Court struck down a law passed by the Florida legislature that had created the United States' first statewide education voucher program. The majority in this case consisted of Wells, Anstead, Pariente, Lewis, and Quince. Bush appointees Raoul G. Cantero and Kenneth B. Bell dissented.
  • In 2004, the court struck down another piece of legislation from the Florida legislature designed to reverse a lower court decision in the Terri Schiavo case. This decision was unanimous and included Bush appointees Cantero and Bell. By this time, Harding had retired.
  • In the 2000 presidential election controversy, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a statewide recount in the disputed election pitting George W. Bush against Al Gore. The United States Supreme Court later reversed that ruling. The Florida Supreme Court majority in this case consisted of Anstead, Pariente, Lewis, and Quince. Dissenting Justices were Wells, Harding, and Leander J. Shaw, Jr., an appointee of Gov. Bob Graham. Shaw retired in early 2003 and was replaced by Bell.


Chiles' niece is US Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, a Democrat elected in 2008. Hagan is the daughter of Chiles' sister Jeannette. Chiles' son, "Bud" Chiles, ran for the position of Governor of Florida without party affiliation in a grassroots campaign. Like his father, Bud embarked on a walking tour of the state, listening and visiting with local communities in Florida.[5] On September 2, 2010, Chiles dropped out of the race citing "continuing down this road could have unintended consequences, dividing those who hold common goals..." Chiles threw his support behind Alex Sink.[6]

Electoral history

Democratic primary for United States Senator from Florida, 1970

  • C. Farris Bryant – 240,222 (32.90%)
  • Lawton Chiles – 188,300 (25.79%)
  • Fred Schultz – 175,745 (24.07%)
  • Alcee Hastings – 91,948 (12.59%)
  • Joel Daves – 33,939 (4.65%)

Democratic runoff for United States Senator from Florida, 1970

Florida United States Senate election, 1970

  • Lawton Chiles (D) – 902,438 (53.87%)
  • Bill Cramer (R) – 772,817 (46.13%)

Florida United States Senate election, 1976

  • Lawton Chiles (D, Inc.) – 1,799,518 (62.98%)
  • John Grady (R) – 1,057,886 (37.02%)

Florida United States Senate election, 1982

  • Lawton Chiles (D, Inc.) – 1,637,667 (61.72%)
  • Van B. Poole (R) – 1,015,330 (38.27%)

Democratic primary for Governor of Florida, 1990

  • Lawton Chiles – 746,325 (69.49%)
  • Bill Nelson – 327,731 (30.51%)

Florida gubernatorial election, 1990

  • Lawton Chiles/Buddy MacKay (D) – 1,995,206 (56.51%)
  • Bob Martinez (Inc.)/J. Allison DeFoor (R) – 1,535,068 (43.48%)

Democratic primary for Governor of Florida, 1994

  • Lawton Chiles (Inc.) – 603,657 (72.17%)
  • Jack Gargan – 232,757 (27.83%)

Florida gubernatorial election, 1994

See also


  1. ^ [1], New York Times, December 25, 1987. Retrieved on May 5, 2009.
  2. ^ "Ex-Senator Ends Retirement And Faces an Election Issue". Associated Press. April 14, 1990. Retrieved October 21, 2007. 
  3. ^ Gielow-Jacobs, Leslie: "Free Speech and the Limits of Legislative Discretion: The Example of Specialty License Plates" Florida Law Review, 53(3) pages 419–432
  4. ^ Lithwick, Dahlia: "Poetic Licenses" Slate, February 6, 2003 Retrieved June 23, 2007.
  5. ^ Bud's campaign website
  6. ^ Miami Herald, Chiles throws support to Sink in Fla. gov's race., September 2, 2010

External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
Spessard Holland
United States Senator (Class 1) from Florida
Served alongside: Edward J. Gurney, Richard Stone, Paula Hawkins, Bob Graham
Succeeded by
Connie Mack
Political offices
Preceded by
Frank Church
Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee
Succeeded by
H. John Heinz III
Preceded by
Pete Domenici
New Mexico
Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee
Succeeded by
Jim Sasser
Preceded by
Robert Martinez
Governor of Florida
Succeeded by
Kenneth H. "Buddy" MacKay, Jr.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Spessard Holland
Democratic Party nominee for United States Senator (Class 1) from Florida
1970, 1976, 1982
Succeeded by
Buddy MacKay
Preceded by
Steve Pajcic
Democratic Party Nominee for Governor of Florida
1990, 1994
Succeeded by
Buddy MacKay

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lawton Chiles, Jr. — Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr. Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr. (* 3. April 1930 in Lakeland, Florida; † 12. Dezember 1998 in Tallahassee, Florida) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker und von 1991 bis 1998 der 41. Gouverneur von Florida …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lawton Chiles — Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr. Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr. (* 3. April 1930 in Lakeland, Florida; † 12. Dezember 1998 in Tallahassee, Florida) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker und von 1991 bis 1998 der 41. Gouverneur von Florida. Zwischen 1971 und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lawton Chiles — Mandats 41e gouverneur de Floride 1991 – …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lawton Chiles High School — Infobox Secondary school logo= name=Lawton Chiles High School type=Public Secondary address=7211 Lawton Chiles Lane city=Tallahassee, FL state=Florida country=USA information=(850) 488 1756 established=1999 grades=9 to 12|enrollment= principal=Dr …   Wikipedia

  • Lawton Chiles Legal Information Center — Infobox University name = Lawton Chiles Legal Information Center motto = established =2005 type =Public endowment = staff = faculty = dean = undergrad = postgrad = doctoral = city =Gainesville state =Florida country =USA campus = mascot =… …   Wikipedia

  • Lawton Mainor Chiles Jr. — Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr. Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr. (* 3. April 1930 in Lakeland, Florida; † 12. Dezember 1998 in Tallahassee, Florida) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker und von 1991 bis 1998 der 41. Gouverneur von Florida …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Chiles — may refer to: People: Adrian Chiles (born 1967), British TV and radio presenter Eddie Chiles (1910–93), American businessman Henry G. Chiles, Jr. (born 1938), retired United States Navy four star admiral Jackie Chiles, fictional attorney on the… …   Wikipedia

  • Chiles — ist der Name folgender geographischer Objekte: Chiles (Ecuador), ein Berggipfel in Ecuador der Nachname folgender Personen: Héctor Chiles (* 1971), ecuadorianischer Straßenradrennfahrer Lawton Chiles (1930–1998), US amerikanischer Politiker Lois… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Chiles, Lawton Mainor, Jr. — ▪ 1999       American politician who gained the nickname Walkin Lawton by walking the length of Florida in 1970 in his successful campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, which he held until 1989; from 1991 he served as Florida s governor, and, in… …   Universalium

  • Rhea Chiles — Infobox person name = Rhea Chiles image size = 150px birth date = birth place = death date = death place = nationality = American alma mater = University of Florida known for = Being the First Lady of the state of Florida from 1991 1998 spouse =… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.