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Bob Graham: A politician who knew your job because he gave it a try

'His workdays really got him to understand the working people of the state,' Brian Crowley says
Florida Governor Bob Graham and Boatswain Mate Second Class James Phillips State Archives of Florida
Posted at 5:36 PM, Apr 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-17 20:51:43-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Bob Graham's "workdays" made him famous.

He took on more than 400 ordinary jobs — from sanitation worker to busboy to school teacher. They launched him from his Miami area roots as a state lawmaker to the Florida Governor's Mansion in his 1978 race.

Brian Crowley was the Tallahassee bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post during Graham's time as governor.

State Senator Bob Graham working road construction with Triple R Paving during workday in Fort Lauderdale State Archives of Florida .jpg
State Sen. Bob Graham working road construction with Triple R Paving during "workday" in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Sept. 6, 1978.

"This is a guy who was a multimillionaire, his father had run for governor (and lost), and he had gone to Harvard Law School," Crowley told me. "But his workdays that he started when he first ran for governor really got him to understand the working people of the state, and it made an enormous impact on the kind of governor and kind of man he became."

During and after the Mariel boatlift, then-Gov. Graham fought Washington for needed resources. He was a Democratic governor unafraid to take on Democrats or Republicans.

Always a meticulous note-keeper, Graham also kept a constant eye on the bigger picture.

FILE - Sen. Bob Graham, right, speaks during the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill and Offshore Drilling meeting on Sept. 27, 2010, in Washington. The former Florida Sen. Graham, who chaired the Intelligence Committee following the 2001 terrorist attacks and opposed the Iraq invasion, has died, according to an announcement by his family Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

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"Bob Graham was always a man of vision for what he thought would be best for the long-term health of the state, so he would look at education reforms, he would look at protecting the environment in Florida," Crowley said.

Two terms as governor led to three terms as U.S. senator. Graham, known far and wide for a sense of humor, also was known to have a spine of steel when he thought it necessary. In 2003, he voted against going to war in Iraq, one of a handful of Democrats to do so.

"He objected to us going into Iraq," Crowley recalled. "He thought it was wrong, and it turned out he was right."

WATCH: WPTV anchor Michael Williams and Brian Crowley discuss Bob Graham's legacy

WPTV anchor Michael Williams and Brian Crowley discuss Bob Graham's legacy

A 2004 presidential bid went nowhere for Graham and he would soon exit the political stage but remained a thoughtful, influential voice.

Then and now, he is a reminder of what bipartisanship once looked like.

"Not insisting it had to be his way only is something we need to get back to," Crowley said. "It's a great legacy."