The Loss Of A Classic Great Governor: Reubin Askew Of Florida (1971-1979)

When one examines the history of state Governors throughout American history, one discovers that a very large percentage of them have performed horribly, with many mediocre at best, and very few standing out as exceptional in their performance in office.

We often say that the best place to look for Presidential candidates is to go to the states, and find effective Governors, who have proven their ability to govern.

But when we look, even at the present group of 50 Governors in the United States, it is hard to find many who give one a sense of optimism, as to their honesty, concern for the average citizen, and commitment to good government.

So when we do find such a Governor, he is to be treasured, although often not recognized adequately in his own lifetime.

Such a case is former Florida Governor Reubin Askew, easily rated the greatest Governor in Florida history.

But Askew is much more than that, as he is rated by scholars in one study as one of the top ten all time Governors in the history of all states since 1789!

Askew came out of obscurity in the Florida State legislature to serve two achievement filled terms as Governor of a state with a long list of mostly mediocre Governors. He was the first Florida Governor able to have two terms in office, due to a change in the state Constitution in 1967.

Askew was one of the NEW SOUTH Democratic Governors who came out of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, and Arkansas Governors Dale Bumpers and Bill Clinton. Sadly, the Republican Party did NOT produce forward minded Governors then or since, and we see the product of it in such Governors as Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Rick Perry of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and other disastrous Southern Governors given their states by the GOP!

Askew was a liberal on racial issues, in a state not known for open mindedness and tolerance, in the years before 1970. He was able to overhaul the tax laws of the state, and to promote open government through “sunshine” laws, and also advocate environmental protection. Additionally, he promoted streamlining of the state government and courts, and also pushed ethics laws.

Askew had tremendous accomplishments, but was always very humble and decent as a human being, not letting his power to go to his head, a rare thing among state governors, past and present.

Askew was so highly regarded that he was offered the chance to be the Vice Presidential nominee with George McGovern in 1972, but turned it down. He also had a brief run for the Presidency in 1984 and for the Senate in 1988, but disliked having to work to raise campaign funds.

He was born to a poor family, worked his way through school, and never forgot the common touch, which in itself, made him a great man!

Florida and the nation have lost a true giant, a model for others, but not many are following in his footsteps, either in Florida or in other states around the nation, something to be mourned, as we mourn his death!