Governor Reubin Askew - USAF Veteran - Tallahassee, FL

Governor Askew’s public career began as Assistant County Solicitor for Escambia County from 1956-1958. In 1958, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives and to the Florida Senate in 1962. He served as president pro tempore in 1969-1970. 

In 1970, he was elected Governor and was reelected in 1974, the first governor to be elected for a second, successive 4-year term.

The top priority of his first administration was tax reform. His accomplishments included winning legislative approval of a corporate profits tax, a repeal of consumer taxes on household utilities and apartment rentals, and the sharing of additional state revenues with schools and other units of local government to ease the burden of local property taxes on homeowners. In addition, at his urging, the Legislature increased the homestead exemption from $5,000 to $10,000 for persons 65 years of age and older and for the disabled. He also supported the rolling back of local school taxes by two mills and the exemption of the first $20,000 in intangibles from State taxes.

Also during his administration, reforms were achieved in consumer protection, education financing, criminal justice, the environment, and standards of conduct in public office. Florida’s election laws were strengthened, and an Ethics Commission was created. Askew realized a long term goal in early 1972 when voters gave overwhelming approval to a new judicial article of the State Constitution streamlining Florida’s court system and providing for the nonpartisan election of judges.

In 1974, Askew became the first Florida Governor in history to be elected for a second, consecutive four-year term. His re-election was considered a mandate for another priority of his administration: full and public financial disclosure by candidates and public officials. For example, he promoted a 1976 constitutional amendment requiring financial disclosure for public officials. When the Legislature failed to act in passing the “Sunshine Amendment,” the Governor took the issue to the people, obtaining some 220,000 signatures to place it on the ballot with ratification by 80% of the voters. Askew also represented a large part of the successful opposition to the ratification of the constitutional amendment that would have legalized casino gambling in an oceanfront area of Dade and Broward counties. Because of his personal integrity, he was often called “Reubin the Good.”

Racial justice and fairness were other noted features of Askew’s second administration. This commitment was demonstrated by his support of bussing to end school segregation, and his appointments of Joseph W. Hatchett, the first black Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, and Athalie Range, Secretary of the Department of Community Affairs, the first Black woman in a hundred years to serve as a member of his cabinet. He also appointed Dorothy W. Glisson as Secretary of State, the first woman to serve as a member of his cabinet. Glisson served from June 1974 to January 1975 to complete the term of Secretary of State Richard Stone, who had resigned to run for the U.S. Senate.

Some of Governor Askew’s notable accomplishments as Governor include:

  • Ethics: Championed stronger ethics laws and won passage of the Sunshine Amendment, the first voter-approved change to the Florida Constitution, in 1976, which required elected officials to disclose their personal finances.
  • Courts: Modernized a creaky and patronage-ridden judiciary by creating nominating commissions for vacant judgeships and the first merit retention system for appellate judges.
  • Diversity: Made the first African-American appointments to the Florida Supreme Court, Cabinet and as head of a state agency. He also strongly supported peaceful acceptance of busing to achieve desegregation of public schools, which was unpopular at the time.
  • Taxation: Successfully led the “fair share” campaign to adopt Florida’s first tax on corporate profits, approved by voters in a special statewide referendum in 1971 by more than a 2-to-l margin.
  • Gambling: Led a crusade to defeat a South Florida casino gambling referendum in 1978, but the result led to the demise of eight proposed constitutional amendments, including a state equal rights amendment, elimination of the cumbersome Cabinet and creation of an independent statewide redistricting commission

As his programs gained national recognition, Governor Askew was selected to deliver the Keynote Address at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach. In 1974, he was elected Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Conference, and was elected Chairman of the Democratic Governors’ Conference in 1976. He also served as Chairman of the Education Commission of the States and the Southern Growth Policies Board.

Upon retiring as Governor in 1979, Askew joined the Miami law firm of Greenberg, Traurig, Askew, Hoffman, Lipoff, Rosen and Quentel. In addition, he served as chairman of President Carter’s Advisory Committee on Ambassadorial appointments. On October 1, 1979, he was given a cabinet-level appointment by President Carter as the United States Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.

At the end of the Carter administration, Askew returned to his Miami law firm. Beginning in March 1981, he explored the possibility of seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, and in 1984, became the first Floridian to make a bid for the presidency.

However, his campaign ended, since he finished last in the New Hampshire primary in February 1984. On December 21, 1987 he announced his candidacy for the United States Senate, but withdrew on May 7, 1988, citing the rigors of fundraising.

Following his political campaign activities, Askew became interested in teaching Florida Government and Florida Public Administration and Public Policy at several universities. His teaching career began at Florida International University in 1989, and at Florida Atlantic University, where, in 1991, he became a tenured professor. In 1994, the University of Florida created the Askew Institute of Politics and Society. Also in 1994, Florida State renamed its School of Public Administration and Policy in his honor. Askew joined its faculty in 1995 as Distinguished Professor of Public Administration and Policy. In 2000, his position was renamed the Reubin O’D. Askew Eminent Scholar Chair in Florida Government and Politics. In addition, he served as senior fellow in the university’s John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government and trustee of the LeRoy Collins Institute.

Governor Askew left tremendous legacy in Florida government. He did much more than talk about transparency and ethics in government. He fought to pass Florida’s “Government in the Sunshine Law” by ballot initiative in 1976, over the objections of state lawmakers. “Other than LeRoy Collins (Florida’s governor in the 1950s who also fought against segregation), there is no one in Florida history — absolutely no one — to compare with Askew,” said Martin Dyckman, a former St. Petersburg newspaper editor and author of the book, “Reubin O’D. Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics.” “He brought a morality to the conduct of his campaigns and his office that informed every decision he made and every action he took. It wasn’t the pompous morality or the false piety that corrodes American politics today, but simply an old-fashioned instinct to do what was right as he saw what was right.”
Certainly, his career is a shining example of how one can distinguish himself above all others in the name of integrity, dedication and public service.

Upon hearing of his passing, the tributes to his service were many.
Gov. Rick Scott: “Gov. Askew served our nation as a veteran, he served Florida’s families as an elected officeholder, and he served our children as an educator. He helped lead Florida to enormous growth and was a trailblazer for good government. His advocacy for Florida’s sunshine laws was a landmark moment for ethics and transparency in government, and that legacy continues to endure. His accomplishments were vast, but he remained humble and took his commitment to public service seriously. Gov. Askew strove to make life better for all of Florida’s families, and that dedication is an example for all who followed in his footsteps. Ann and I mourn his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Donna Lou, and his entire family.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson: “Gov. Askew was one of the best examples of integrity in the public square. He believed that ‘a public office is a public trust.’ “

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio: “As one of the most beloved and effective governors in Florida’s
history, Reubin Askew’s service improved the lives of many people across our state. He played a critical role in shaping Florida into the great state it is today, championing government transparency, stronger ethics laws and civil rights. One of the most remarkable things about Askew’s time in office is how deeply it embodies the values by which he lived. Throughout his many years of service, it was often his personal integrity that inspired the public. Askew was a man of principle, guiding Florida through a critical time in America’s history by advocating such things as racial tolerance and school desegregation. And although he was a Democrat, he believed in the sanctity of unborn life. Reubin Askew led by example, and his efforts to promote the good in both people and our government will never be forgotten. My wife Jeanette and I send our condolences to his family and friends as they mourn his passing and celebrate his life.”

U.S. Representative Gwen Graham: “Today we remember the life and legacy of Governor Reubin Askew. He was a great statesman and public servant for the people of Florida. Governor Askew showed Florida and America true leadership. He understood what it meant to put the people before politics — from advancing civil rights as governor to teaching at Florida State University. I was blessed with the honor of knowing Governor Askew. He was a truly decent man whose impact on our state will be felt long after his passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Former Gov. Jeb Bush: “With the passing of Gov. Reubin Askew, Florida has lost one of the great leaders who played a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of our state during a time of substantial growth and change. He led on contentious issues, fought for equality and did what he believed was in the best interests of Florida families. Gov. Askew always put principle before politics and I was fortunate to know him, seek counsel from him and learn from his years of service. Gov. Askew’s service to Florida continued well past his time in elected office as he lectured at universities across the state, instilling in so many young Floridians the same passion for good public policy and ethical governance that he demonstrated throughout his storied career. Reubin Askew will always be remembered as a great Floridian and a committed, accomplished public servant. Columba and my prayers are with Donna Lou and the entire Askew family as they mourn this grave loss.”

House Speaker Will Weatherford: “In Gov. Askew, Florida has lost a leader who embodied
what it means to be a true public servant. Gov. Askew leaves behind a legacy of public service that has set the standard for all individuals in elected office today. His tenure includes opening up government and creating new reporting standards for elected officials, which still serve Florida well today. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know this great man. I offer my prayers to his family and his wife Donna Lou.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi: “Gov. Askew was a courageous public servant who led by example. He was guided by honesty and integrity, and he set a high standard for public service as he pursued ethics reform, transparency, and equality. Gov. Askew’s love of teaching has inspired educators and students for decades. My prayers are with Gov. Askew’s family and friends, and especially with his wife, Donna Lou, who not too long ago celebrated her golden anniversary with Gov. Askew. Gov. Askew’s leadership as Florida’s 37th Governor and as a teacher improved the lives of countless individual Floridians and our state as a whole. His legacy will live on forever.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa: “Gov. Reubin Askew brought Florida into the modem era.
His commitment to the Sunshine law, high ethical standards and equal rights charted a course of positive change across our state. The integrity and moral forthrightness he exercised in and out of public office stand as important examples for all who enter public service or who want to be good citizens for our state that Gov. Askew loved so much.”

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville: “The passing of Gov. Reubin Askew leaves a
lonesome place against the Florida sky. He opened up Florida’s government to its people and made our state a model for America. For those of us of a certain age who cut our political teeth in the 60s and 70s, Gov. Askew was living proof that good guys can finish first. Integrity was his platform and honor was his policy. I was privileged to get to know him in his final years. One of the most memorable evenings of my life was the opportunity to co-teach his graduate class at Florida State. Being in his presence was like walking with history.”

University of Florida President Bernie Machen: “We will miss Reubin Askew, but his legacy
is cemented in Florida’s history, including here at the University of Florida in the form of the Institute on Politics and Society that bears his name. To this day, the state continues to benefit from his uncommon leadership on issues as diverse as the environment, public records, tax and education reform and racial integration.”

Statement from Florida State University

“The entire Florida State University family is saddened to learn of Reubin Askew’s passing,” said President Eric J. Barron. “As both a student and alumnus of this institution, he set an inspiring example of leadership and engagement from his service as student body president to that of Florida governor and, finally, as professor and eminent scholar in the school that bears his name. Florida State University and its students will forever be richer because of Reubin Askew’s contributions,” Barron said. “His reputation is why our faculty members voted unanimously to name our school after our beloved alumnus and friend,” said William Earle Klay, director of the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy. “The legacy of Reubin Askew’s reputation, integrity and inclusiveness in service to others is what we intend to keep passing on to our students for many years to come. This is reflected in our school’s mission statement, ‘Promoting Scholarship, Democratic Governance, and Integrity,’” Klay said.

Florida State President Emeritus Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1966-1972, remembered Askew as a man of integrity who was the architect of the ethics program now in Article II, Section 8, of the Florida Constitution. “When Reubin became governor, Florida was widely regarded as an ethical mess,” said D’Alemberte, referring to the numerous state lawmakers and other elected officials in trouble over ethics. “Reubin came in and straightened it out. He was a model for everyone.” D’Alemberte also called Askew “tenacious” in his fight to modernize the state’s judicial system. Governor Reubin O’Donovan Askew is highly deserving of this honor.

Education and Training Accomplishments

Reubin Askew was bom in Muscogee, Oklahoma on September 11, 1928. He grew up in Pensacola, Florida and graduated from Pensacola High School in 1946 entering the U. S. Army after graduation. Governor Askew received a B.S. in Public Administration from Florida State University (FSU) in 1951, where he served as student body president and president of the University Government Association, FSU’s student government agency. While attending FSU, he was also president of the University Government Association and an active member of the Omicron Delta Kappa, Gold Key, Delta Tau Delta, and Alpha Phi Omega fraternities. He did graduate work in public administration at Denver University. In addition, Askew attended the University of Florida Law School, where he was class president, chairman of the Board of Masters of the Honor Court, executive director of the Law Review, and justice of the Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity. He received an LL.B, from that institution in 1956. He held a chair in Florida government and politics at Florida State University and has taught a class at every Florida University. In 1994, Florida State renamed its School of Public Administration and Policy in his honor. Governor Askew joined its faculty in 1995 as Distinguished Professor of Public Administration and Policy. In 2000, his position was renamed the Reubin O’D.Askew Eminent Scholar Chair in Florida Government and Politics. In addition, he served as senior fellow in the university’s John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government and trustee of the LeRoy Collins Institute.

Professional and Employment History

Governor Askew’s public career began as Assistant County Solicitor for Escambia County from 1956-1958. In 1958, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives and later to the Florida Senate in 1962. He served as president pro tempore of the Senate in 1969-1970. In 1970, he was elected Governor and was reelected in
1974, the first governor to be elected for a second, successive 4-year term

 Nominee’s Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans

Governor Askew was a passionate advocate for veterans during his time in elected office and then as a professor at Florida State University. He maintained a membership in The Reserve Officers Association (now known as Military Officers Association of America) that supports military and their families.

Nominee’s Civic Activities and Contributions

Governor Askew’s affiliations with community and civic organizations included the Florida Bar, American Bar Association, American Judicature Society, Council on Foreign Relations, The Bretton Woods Committee , Childrens’ Home Society of Florida, Dade County Center for Fine Arts, International Center of Florida, Southeast U.S./Japan Association, Florida State Gold Key, Florida Council of 100, Order of DeMolay, Legion of Honor, Rotary and the U.S. Reserve Officers Association.
Section 7. Awards and Honors – Throughout his distinguished career, Governor Askew has received many awards including: Outstanding Military Student of the Year, AFROTC, Florida State University (1950); Freshman Class President, University of Florida College of Law (1953);

Executive Editor, University of Florida Law Review (1955); Young Man of the Year Award and one of the Five Outstanding Young Men in Florida, Pensacola Jaycees (1960); Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of Florida (1972); Humanitarian of the Year Award, Florida Commission on Human Relations (1977); Medal of Honor, Florida Bar Foundation (1979), and in 1994 Florida State University renamed its School of Public Administration, “The Reubin O’D. Askew School of Public Administration of Policy.” Governor Askew received 15 honorary doctorate degrees from universities.