Former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announced Saturday that his father, Charles “Sonny” Gillum, died in Jacksonville at age 69.
As the Democratic nominee for governor last year, Andrew Gillum frequently told stories of being raised by working class parents.
“ ‘The son of a school bus driver and a construction worker.’ ” Andrew Gillum mused in a statement. “How many times have I said those words over the last two years?”
“Today the life of that construction worker — my dad, Charles ‘Sonny’ Gillum — came to a close. My father was among the best of men. Not because he was perfect, but because he was real.”
The announcement of the elder Gillum’s death came shortly after Andrew Gillum canceled a keynote address at the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus dinner in Jacksonville.
The politician credited his father with providing him the work ethic needed to become mayor of Tallahassee and to pursue statewide office.
“He got up every day to lay bricks and earn an honest living for his family. If it wasn’t construction work, you would find my dad selling fruits and vegetables on the street corner,” Gillum said of his father.
“My father never met a stranger. As a child, I would hate to run errands with him because he couldn’t make it a few feet without striking up a conversation with anyone who looked ever slightly in his direction.
“At my college graduation, the family joke was that dad got so impatient with the length of the program, he made his way practically around Bragg Stadium talking to whomever would lend an ear. His phrase — while rubbing his hands together — was, ‘So many people, so little time!’”
Gillum sounded a spiritual note in the statement’s closing.
“I will miss my dad terribly,” he said. “But I know that he is in a better place. He signed off every phone call with me saying, ‘Be good, check your surroundings, and don’t forget to pray.’ My prayer tonight is that he finds peace beyond our understanding until we meet again.
“Love you daddy.”
Funeral arrangements will be announced in coming days.