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Bob Graham, former U.S. senator and Florida governor, dies at 87

Bob Graham, former U.S. senator and Florida governor, has died at the age of 87. In 2003, he ran an unsuccessful campaign to be the Democratic nominee for president. File Photo by Ezio Petersen/UPI
1 of 2 | Bob Graham, former U.S. senator and Florida governor, has died at the age of 87. In 2003, he ran an unsuccessful campaign to be the Democratic nominee for president. File Photo by Ezio Petersen/UPI | License Photo

April 17 (UPI) -- Bob Graham, a former U.S. senator and two-term Florida governor best known for his so-called workdays initiative, has died, according to his family. He was 87.

His death was announced Tuesday night in a statement published to the X account of Gwen Graham, one of the former governor's four daughters.

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"We are deeply saddened to report the passing of a visionary leader, dedicated public servant and, even more importantly, a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather: Bob Graham," the family said.

"As his family, we will never forget his love for us, the love he had for Florida, the United States and the world, and the love so many people showed him. We thank God for the gift of his life."

Born Nov. 9, 1936, in Florida's Dade County, Daniel Robert "Bob" Graham was the son of Florida state Sen. Ernest "Cap" Graham and school teacher Hilda Simmons Graham.

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He was raised on a cattle farm in Florida's Everglades where he drove tractors and reared livestock. He would go on to study political science at the University of Florida and law at Harvard, according to his biography of the website of the University of Florida's Bob Graham Center for Public Service.

Graham, a Democrat, entered Florida politics in the mid-1960s, and it was while serving as a state senator in 1974 that he launched his trademark workdays initiative, which would see him take on ordinary jobs working alongside his constituents for a day, with his first having been teaching civics at Miami's Carol City Senior High School.

"Though the concept was simple and had been tried before, it had never been done as Graham did it. He didn't just show up to give a speech and follow someone around their factory for an hour: Bob Graham trained for the job beforehand and then put in a full day doing it," his biography said.

He would end up going on some 100 workdays during a campaign that he rode all the way to the governor's mansion in 1978. He would be re-elected in 1982.

A biography from the U.S. Congress states that as governor he worked to diversify Florida's economy, improve public education and instituted several environmental programs that attracted both national and international attention, including his work to save the Everglades, protect wetlands and foster the health of the state's coastlines.

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After leaving the mansion, he entered the U.S. Senate in 1986 and he would hold his seat for three terms. During his final term in the senate, he was made chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chaired the joint House-Senate inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In that final term, he co-sponsored a bill that would create the position of director of National Intelligence. He also ran an unsuccessful bid for the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.

He would retire from the senate in January of 2005, but on leaving he told the branch that it needs to regain its "tradition of controlled partisanship" of putting country before party, calling on politicians to spend more time with one another's families as Americans instead of as Democrats and Republicans.

"It was out of that development of relationships across regions and across parties that the Senate came to earn the title of 'the world's most exclusive club,'" he said in remarks to the Senate. "And it was the club where the essential bond was that of common respect."

During his political career, he would complete 406 workdays, 214 of which he did while in the Congress.

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"Even though my day job is 1,000 miles away from where many Floridians live, these workdays have been an important part of maintaining a close relationship with my fellow Floridians and reminding me what our priorities should be on their behalf here in Washington," he said his remarks to the Senate.

"Workdays and my experiences in Congress have taught me ways in which the federal government affects the lives of typical Americans and, most acutely, Floridians."

After retiring, he served as a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for a year, during which he development plans for what would become the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, which would open at the University of Florida in 2008.

He was also appointed by then-President Barack Obama to co-chair the national commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

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