Florida, national leaders remember ‘giant’ Bob Graham
Bob Graham on a work day as a construction worker. Image via Florida Memory.

The family announced the death Tuesday evening.

Florida and national figures from across the political spectrum reacted to the death of former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham, who died on Tuesday evening. The longtime Florida leader was celebrated as a statesman respected in all quarters.

— President Joe Biden: “Bob Graham was a colleague, friend, and devoted Floridian whose nearly 50 years of service to his beloved home state and to our country have made America a safer and stronger nation. Bob chose a life of service, working his way up from state legislator, to governor, senator, and presidential candidate. He and I served together in the U.S. Senate, as respective chairs of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees in the wake of 9/11, working to heal a shattered nation and to protect America in a changing world. Bob stood on principle against the Iraq War. He cosponsored my landmark Violence Against Women Act, transforming the way our nation responds to domestic abuse and sexual assault. He was committed to education and to the environment, continuing work that he’d begun as Governor to support public schools and universities, and to protect the water supply, wetlands, and wildlife of Florida’s iconic Everglades. He was full of humor and humanity, and I’m grateful for the support that he gave me over the years. Bob loved people, and he knew that politics at its core is about learning from and serving others. That’s why he spent more than 400 ‘workdays’ on the job with constituents, doing everything from picking tomatoes, to handling baggage, to patrolling the streets with police. He knew it matters to walk a mile in other folks’ shoes. In recent years, he sought to instill that same ethic and empathy in a new generation of public servants through his center in Gainesville, and by working to require civics classes in public schools. He inspired his own daughter, Gwen, to serve in Congress as well; and I’m proud to have her in my Administration today, as an Assistant Secretary of Education. Bob was so proud, too. Our hearts today are with Bob’s beloved wife of 65 years, Adele; with their four daughters, Gwen, Cissy, Suzanne and Kendall; with their grandchildren and friends; and with the people of Florida, whom Bob served so well in so many ways for so long.”

— Former President Barack Obama: “Bob Graham was a friend and a consummate public servant. As a Governor, Senator and legislator, he spent decades fighting for the people of Florida. He was also a champion of the environment, which is why, after the BP oil spill, I asked Bob to co-chair a commission tasked with preventing a disaster of that magnitude from ever happening again. Michelle and I are thinking of Bob’s family today, and everyone who knew and loved him.”

— Gov. Ron DeSantis: “Florida mourns the loss of former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham today. He was a devoted public servant who, among other important work, made enormous achievements in conserving Florida’s natural resources. We are grateful for his service to our state and nation. May he rest in peace.”

— Former Gov. Jeb Bush: “Florida and our country has lost a great public servant. Bob Graham served Floridians with a servant’s heart, with integrity and with civility. Columba and I are praying for the Graham family.”

— U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican: “Bob Graham was a selfless public servant, whose legacy and impact will live on. From his days in the state House to his days in the governor’s mansion and the U.S. Senate, Bob Graham always understood whom he served. It was a core value, one that he lived out even after he retired from public service. Florida, and the nation, lost a very good man. Jeanette and I are praying for Adele, their kids, and the entire Graham family.”

— U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican and former Governor: “Bob Graham was a good man and a great Floridian who dedicated his life to our state. His legacy will live forever, not because of any title he held, but for what he did with those opportunities to improve Florida and the lives of families in the Sunshine State. Ann and I are heartbroken to learn of his passing. He and Adele have been so kind to our family and we will cherish the time we spent together. Please join us in praying for the Graham family and all who mourn Bob’s passing.”

— NASA Administrator and former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson: “Bob Graham…One of America’s finest public servants, Adele’s cherished husband and a devoted father and grandfather has left us for his celestial home. He strongly believed that ‘a public office is a public trust.’ What a legacy! Godspeed Bob Graham.”

— U.S. Rep. and former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “It was with the deepest respect and sadness that I learned of the passing of Senator Bob Graham: a patriotic American and a great Member of the United States Senate. Paul and I extend our sympathy to his entire family, with gratitude for his distinguished public service.”

— U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat: “Bob Graham will always be ‘Mr. Florida.’ He remained our beloved ‘Governor’ even through his years in the U.S. Senate and beyond. Honest, smart, always with his notebook, informed by his ‘workdays,’ devoted to Florida’s natural environment, a booster for public education and committed to high ethical standards — Graham was one of Florida’s greatest public servants. He united Floridians with his positive outlook and ‘can-do’ spirit as the state moved into the modern era. Sending love to Adele, Gwen and the Graham family.”

— U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez, a Miami-Dade Republican: “Lourdes and I are praying for Governor Graham and his family at this time. Florida Governor Bob Graham was a true trailblazer and a common-sense voice who worked across the aisle to deliver results for our Sunshine State. May he rest in peace.”

— U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, an Orlando Democrat: “Florida and the nation lost a great public servant and giant today. Senator and Governor Bob Graham’s legacy is alive throughout our beautiful state, from education to the environment. Gwen Graham, I’m sending you and your family so much love today.”

— U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat: “Bob Graham was a genuine and decent man. In any direction, his legacy pulses through Florida and anyone who calls it home. I was so fortunate to get to know him, to share our mutual love for our alma mater, the University of Florida, and to spend time listening to the nuggets of his vast experience and absorb his lessons whenever possible. Graham’s devotion to higher education, the Everglades, national security and a lasting commitment to public service were only matched by his fidelity to his family. His hundreds of workdays and trademark spiral notebooks are personal touches too rarely seen in our polarized politics. With a vision for global understanding, and the courage to take on daunting tasks like seeking 9-11 answers, we were all fortunate to be touched by one of the greatest leaders Florida or the nation will ever know. I was profoundly fortunate to have known and worked with him for the betterment of our home state. May his memory be a blessing.”

— U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, a Clermont Republican: “Bob Graham loved Florida and spent most of his life serving Floridians, while also being a dedicated husband, father and grandfather. Please join me in saying a prayer for his beloved wife Adele and the entire Graham family.”

— Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody: “Incredibly sad to learn about the passing of Governor Bob Graham. He was a true public servant that loved Florida and so many Floridians loved him back. Grateful for all that he did for our state. His memory and service will be cherished for decades to come.”

— Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo: “So much of modern Florida is a credit to the legacy of Governor Graham. His commitment to stewardship of our environment and natural resources and respect for the dignity of work always stood out to me. He was loved by so many. My prayers are with his family on this sad day.”

— Florida House Speaker Paul Renner: “Florida mourns the loss of a faithful public servant, Governor Bob Graham. Adriana and I join others in extending our condolences to the Graham family as they celebrate his life and service.”

— State Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book: “Bob Graham was many things — Governor, Senator, father, husband, statesman, a lifelong friend, and so much more. Above all else, Bob Graham was a kind and decent human being who, through his signature work days and policy platforms, uplifted the plight of everyday working people. Florida would be better off if there were more like Governor Graham. His servant leadership — and friendship — will be greatly missed.”

— State Sen. Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat: “Honoring a true warrior for Floridians, Bob Graham, former Florida Governor, who was devoutly committed to his family and public service with such a great deal of humility and passion with his memorable ‘work days’ and other notable things. He will truly be missed.”

— State Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Miami Gardens Democrat: “In times of loss, we remember a giant among us. Bob Graham was not just a Governor or a U.S. Senator; he was a beacon of leadership and a devoted family man. His legacy of compassion and dedication will endure. We express our gratitude to Senator Graham for the path he has forged for countless others. May his soul find eternal peace.”

— State Rep. Lindsay Cross, a Pinellas Democrat: “So heartbroken to learn of the passing of Senator/Governor Bob Graham. He was a true statesman and always generous with his time and knowledge. I first met Governor Graham as Executive Director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. He was always a champion for conservation and restoration of the Everglades. He has left an enduring legacy and has truly made Florida better. He will be missed.”

— State Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat: “A true public servant who deeply loved Florida. May his memory be a blessing and inspiration to us all.”

— Tampa Mayor Jane Castor: “Former Governor and Senator Bob Graham was an incredible leader and model for all public servants. His example will continue to inspire us all. Sending healing prayers and comfort to the Graham family during this most difficult time.”

— Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan: “Bob Graham was Florida’s Governor when I was a cub reporter covering the Florida Legislature right out of college. He made me feel at ease and always remembered me by name. It’s how he treated everyone. Godspeed to a great man.”

— U.S. Senate candidate and former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Miami Democrat: “My heart is with the Graham family after hearing the news that we lost Bob Graham. He was the best of Florida: dedicated to our democracy, our environment, our community, and above all our beautiful state. His legacy will live on in the generation of public servants he inspired. He will be greatly missed.”

— State Senate candidate and former state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat: “Bob Graham set the bar for public service in Florida and was an inspiration for future generations. Thank you, Governor (and Senator) Graham, for showing the way. My condolences to Gwen Graham and the entire family.”

— U.S. Representative candidate Jen Perelman: “Bob Graham was one of our country’s true statesmen and our last respectable and decent Governor of my home state. While it’s been many years since he served in that capacity, I’m thankful that my childhood memories of our Florida Governor are of someone with honor and integrity.”

— Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried: “Bob Graham exemplified what it meant to be a servant of the people. He gave everything he had to the people of our great state and boy did he love our state with all of his heart and all of his being. Growing up in Miami it was the first political name I learned as he was beloved by all. His love for our state may have only been matched by his love for his Florida Gators. The photos and legacy of his leadership at UF and Florida Blue Key are enshrined in the halls and passed on to generations. We all should strive to be the type of person Bob Graham was who gave selflessly and lived life fully. Bob, you will be missed, but your impact on this state and many of us lives on. Adele and Gwen, the people of our state owe you a debt of gratitude for sharing Bob with us for all these years and our hearts are with you and the family. Rest in Power and Go Gators!”

— Former state Sen. Bob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican: “Bob Graham loved Florida. Never stopped fighting for her. In 1988, he gave a group of kids a personal tour of the U.S. Senate floor after we randomly ran into him. I next visited with him 30 years later at the Florida Capitol-we talked land conservation. May he rest in peace.”

— Former state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat: “Florida lost a great leader and model public servant. He was kind, thoughtful, generous and genuinely interested in what others thought. Rest in peace Governor Graham and condolences to the Graham family.”

— Bob Buckhorn, former Tampa Mayor: “An American and a Floridian first and a partisan last. In these hyper partisan times our country needs more statesmen and women like Bob Graham. He will be missed but his legacy will live forever.”

Dan Gelber, former Miami Beach Mayor: “I loved that he was an unapologetic wonk, but also empathetic, inquisitive and entirely original. How lucky were we to have Bob Graham dedicate an entire lifetime of remarkable service to our State. There will not be another like him. He was Mr. Florida and will be missed.”

Steve Schale, Democratic consultant: “Bob Graham’s last statewide poll… after nearly 40 years in public life. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Bob Graham is honest and a man of integrity.’ Agree: 67% Disagree: 9%. There will never be another.”

Rick Wilson, The Lincoln Project co-founder: “RIP Governor Bob Graham. In the history of Florida, you will find few men who governed and led with such grace, honor, and dignity. He knew and loved this state and its people like no other. We will not see his like again. A tremendous loss. Our condolences go out to Gwen Graham and the Graham family.”

Max Steele, Everytown communications director: “Bob Graham was a humble, hardworking statesman who put his money where his mouth was and was one of the last few connections to an old Florida that’s almost entirely gone. RIP. Sending love to Gwen Graham and the family.”

— Desmond Meade, civil rights activist: “It was an honor to have known Former Governor and Congressman Bob Graham. I’ll never forget when he called me to let me know that I was named the Citizen of the Year.”

— Florida Democratic Party: “There are no words that can fully capture what Bob Graham meant to the state of Florida. A giant in Florida politics, Bob set the standard for every elected official who followed — both Democrat and Republican. He lived a life most of us could only dream of, one where he impacted the lives of millions with an unparalleled heart for service and a moral compass that always pointed true. Our hearts go out to Adele, Gwen, and the entire Graham family as they mourn their loss and celebrate his incredible life. Part of the DNA of every Florida Democrat is living up to the example Bob Graham set for us. As we honor his legacy, may we all love and serve Florida the way he did — with a twinkle in our eyes and a curiosity for things unknown.”

— AFL-CIO of Florida: “RIP to former Senator and Governor Bob Graham, a champion of working people. Sen. Graham was famous for his regular ‘workdays’ where he would spend a day working a particular job. He cut hair, picked tomatoes, picked up garbage, and a lot more. He will be missed!”

— The Bob Graham Center at the University of Florida: “The Bob Graham Center community is deeply saddened by the death of our beloved founder, former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham. We honor his historic legacy and life of service.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Thank you, Bob Graham

    April 17, 2024 at 9:32 am

    RIP BG. You were in a class all your own, and lord knows we won’t see the likes of you again. You made me believe that people who went into public service did so to do their best for as many people as possible as long as possible and as much as possible. Even though I know that isn’t true today, it was for you. And I feel lucky to have known you and for Florida to have known you, even if that time is gone forever now. I won’t forget. Bless you. And well done.

  • Nope

    April 17, 2024 at 9:47 am

    Maybe the people can remember what true service with honor means and looks like, and not give up hope. And just think, people. Gwen Graham could have been governor all this time… Something to reflect on…

  • KathrynA

    April 18, 2024 at 2:09 pm

    We should honor his memory and all he did for the state of Florida as governor and senator and the integrity and care he put into his work! We so miss men and women of integrity and not running for the political showmanship!

Comments are closed.


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