1st Lieutenant Lawton Chiles - US Army Veteran (Posthumous)

Lawton Mainor Chiles served on active duty in the United States Army, entering the Army after college and serving as an artillery officer during the Korean War.  

He achieved the rank of First Lieutenant, after entering active duty as a Second Lieutenant.

Education and Training Accomplishments

  • Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, 1953 
  • Bachelor’s degree, University of Florida, 1952
  • Juris Doctor degree, University of Florida School of Law, 1955
  • Inducted member, Florida Blue Key honor and service society, 1954
  • Inducted member, University of Florida Hall of Fame

Professional/Employment History

  • Second Lieutenant/First Lieutenant, United States Army, 1952-1954
  • Attorney in private practice, Lakeland
  • Businessman, banker, industrial developer – Lakeland
  • Member, Florida House of Representatives, 1958-1968 
  • Member, Florida Senate, 1966-1970
  • Chairman, Florida Law Revision Commission, 1968-1970
  • Member, United States Senate, 1971-1989
  • Chairman, Senate Budget Committee, 1987-1989
  • Chairman, Senate Special Committee on Aging, 1979-1981
  • Governor, State of Florida, 1991-1998

Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans

  • 1974 – Sponsored S.3400 to extend coverage of the automobile assistance program and the specially adapted housing program to those veterans qualifying for assistance under section 351 of title 38, United States Code.
  • 1977 – Sponsored S.2182, providing for a Veterans’ Administration outpatient clinic in northwest Florida.

Florida Veterans Hall of Fame Nomination Packet Pertaining to: Governor Lawton M. Chiles

  • 1982 – Sponsored S.2537, to require the VA to consider the number of veterans residing in each state and projected changes in the number of veterans residing in each state for purposes of acquiring and operating medical facilities.
  • 1982 – Sponsored S.2834, allowing the government to take into consideration various factors in determining the amount of space in military medical facilities programmed for retired members, their dependents and dependents of deceased members of the uniformed services.
  • 1984 – Sponsored S. 1833, authorizing the VA to furnish, to each veteran who has a compensable service-connected disability, such drugs and medicines as may be prescribed by any licensed physician for treatment of the service-connected disability.
  • 1988 – Sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 318, designating a “National Week of Recognition and Remembrance for Those Who Served in the Korean War” (signed into law by the President)
  • 1988 – Introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 118, expressing the sense of the Congress “regarding the heroic efforts of the officers and enlisted members of the U.S.S. Bonefish”
  • 1998 – Co-sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 330 to designate “National POW/MIA Recognition Day”
  • 1991 – Initiated campaign for Floridians to send yellow ribbons to Tallahassee to build eternal flame in honor of all Florida veterans
  • 1991 – Dedication celebration for eternal flame included parade for veterans and returning Desert Storm troops
  • 1991 – In State of the State address to Florida Legislature, invited Gulf War veterans to a giant Fourth of July “Florida Freedom Festival” in Tallahassee. Also encouraged Vietnam veterans to join in because “you know we’ve never really welcomed them back to this country.”
  • 1998 – Held special recognition ceremony and luncheon for Malcolm Randall, America’s longest-serving administrator of veterans’ health care services, upon his retirement as director of the Gainesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
  • 1998 – Prompted Florida Legislature to appropriate $420,000, to be combined with private donations, to erect a monument near Capitol in honor of Korean War veterans.

Civic Activities and Contributions

  • Inducted member, Florida Blue Key honor and service society, 1954
  • Inducted member, University of Florida Hall of Fame
  • Florida Bar, admitted 1955
  • Member, Florida Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
  • Member, Florida House of Representatives, 1958-1966
  • Member, Florida Senate, 1966-1970
  • Chairman, Florida Law Revision Commission, 1968-1970
  • Member, United States Senate, 1971-1989
  • Chairman, Senate Budget Committee, 1987-1989
  • Chairman, Senate Special Committee on Aging, 1979-1981
  • Created Florida Healthy Start program – ensure that mothers and babies receive prenatal and infant care
  • Florida KidCare – expanded health care coverage to large numbers of Florida children
  • Established Florida Department of Elder Affairs
  • Sued tobacco industry, resulting in landmark $11.3 billion settlement agreement
  • Governor’s Commission on Education – resulted in additional funding for education, including pre-school
  • Successful push to promote adoption

Awards and Honors (representative sampling)

  • Korean Service Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • United Nations Service Medal
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – March of Dimes, 1998
  • Mike Synar Award – Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 1998
  • Safe Motherhood Award – World Health Day, 1998
  • Spirit of Youth Award – Boys Town, 1997
  • Named one of 10 national “Heroes for the American Family,” Parenting Magazine, 1996

Facilities, Awards, Recognitions Named in Nominee’s Honor (representative sampling)

  • Lawton Chiles High School, Tallahassee
  • Lawton Chiles Middle School, Oviedo
  • Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, Lakeland
  • Lawton Chiles Elementary School, Orlando
  • Lawton Chiles Elementary School, Gainesville
  • Chiles Advocacy Award (for improving the lives of children and families)
  • Lawton Chiles Foundation (supporting best practices in child development, child health, child safety and welfare)
  • Lawton Chiles Children & Family Healthcare Center, Bradenton
  • Lawton Chiles International Lecture Series on Maternal and Child Health in the Americas
  • Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies, University of South Florida College of Public Health
  • Lawton Chiles International Lecture Series on Maternal and Child Health, University of South Florida
  • Lawton Chiles International House at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
  • Lawton Chiles Trail, designated by 1999 Florida Legislature (1,033 miles from Century to Key West)
  • Lawton Chiles Endowment (funding health care programs for children and the elderly)
  • Governor Lawton Chiles Memorial Park, Palm Beach County (Delray Beach)

Written narrative to justify consideration for the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame

In two life-defining years of military service, Lawton M. Chiles fully embraced the timeless values of leadership, selfless dedication and service to others. Over the course of the next 44 years, he personified those values through a career of public service that enhanced the lives of millions of Floridians and Americans. By any standard of measurement, he was a military veteran who made a significant contribution to the people and state of Florida, and is worthy of inclusion in the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame.

Bom in 1930, Lawton Chiles reached his teenage years during World War II, a period that instilled in him a deep understanding of sacrifice and commitment. After graduating from Lakeland High School, he enrolled at the University of Florida. After he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1952, he put further career aspirations on hold to serve in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Chiles entered the service as a Second Lieutenant but soon was promoted to First Lieutenant, with significant duty as part of the 524th Field Artillery Battalion.

While serving his country in uniform, Chiles earned the Korean Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal. Honorably discharged in 1954, he returned to the University of Florida, where he earned a law degree and distinguished himself as a true leader. By the time he completed his schooling at the University, he had earned induction into the University of Florida Hall of Fame and Florida Blue Key, at the time the state’s foremost leadership training organization.

Through skills and commitment honed in the United States Army, Chiles’ days as a leader were just beginning.

With his law degree in hand, Chiles began a law practice in Lakeland in 1955. But three years later, just 28 years old, Chiles sought and won a seat representing his hometown in the Florida House of Representatives. He served there until 1966, when he was elected to the Florida Senate. While in the Senate, he also served as chairman of the Florida Law Revision Commission.

Four years after his election to the state Senate, Chiles’ legacy was forever established in 1970, when he pulled off a tremendous political upset with an inspired – and inspiring – gambit.

Despite his 12 years in the Legislature, Chiles was a relative unknown in most of the state, yet he decided to run for the United States Senate. To generate media coverage and to connect with voters at a personal level, he embarked on a 1,003-mile walk across Florida, from Century to Key West. The three-month walk earned him the nickname “Walkin’ Lawton,” and cemented his image as a man of the people. The tactic worked, and Chiles easily topped former Gov. Farris Bryant to win the Democratic nomination before defeating Congressman Bill Cramer by 8 percentage points in the general election.

Chiles served three terms in the U.S. Senate, focus much of his attention on helping citizens at both ends of the life spectrum: children and elders. He fought for Medicaid reform initiatives such as the Women, Infants and Children food program and increased funding for prenatal care and childhood immunizations. He chaired the Congressionally established National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality, helping to focus national attention on the importance of quality prenatal care. Chiles also concentrated on the well-being of Americans much later in life, culminating in his tenure as chairman of the Special Committee on Aging of the 96th Congress, from 1979 to 1981. Six years later, he served as chairman of the influential Senate Budget Committee.

Throughout his years in the U.S. Senate, Chiles also sponsored legislation designed to help military veterans. This includes measure to provide automobile and adapted housing assistance to qualifying veterans; requiring the VA to factor actual and projected numbers of veterans in each state as it planned for future medical facilities; and authorizing the VA to provide prescription medications to veterans with service-connected disabilities. With an eye toward his service during the Korean War, Chiles also sponsored a Joint Resolution designating a “National Week of Recognition and Remembrance for Those Who Served in the Korean War,” which was signed into law by the President.

Following heart bypass surgery in 1985, Chiles found himself increasingly frustrated by the difficulty of getting anything done in the Senate. In December 1987, he announced that he would not seek another term in the Senate – seemingly ending his career of public service. However, once back in his home state full time, he decided to run for governor in hopes of winning the office back from Republican incumbent Bob Martinez. He defeated Martinez by 13 percentage points. Four years later, he beat back a determined challenge from first-time candidate Jeb Bush, winning re-election by a fewer than 64,000 votes.

As he did in the U.S. Senate, Governor Chiles focused his energies on improving government services for the young and the old. He established Florida’s Healthy Start program to ensure prenatal and infant health care, sued the tobacco industry in part to protect children from cigarette marketing, improved funding and services for programs to help special needs children, greatly expanding immunization rates for 2-year-olds, and appointed a Governor’s Commission on Education to take a comprehensive look at Florida’s education system. At the same time, he established the Florida Department of Elder Affairs to coordinate services to the state’s large and growing population of seniors.

Governor Chiles’ service to the public was cut short when he suffered a fatal heart attack, just three weeks before he was to leave office. Nonetheless, his legacy was firmly established. His folksy demeanor, refusal to rely on big-money political donors, and emphasis on services needed by “regular” people secured his place as one of Florida’s most admired leaders.

From the modest beginnings of a 22-year-old Second Lieutenant to a long and distinguished career at the highest levels of two branches of our American system of government, Lawton M. Chiles distinguished himself as a dedicated public servant and committed leader. His service to the people of Florida and the United States merits his posthumous induction into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame.