Happy Birthday, “Walkin’ Lawton” Chiles

Lawton Chiles, one of Florida’s best-known and most memorable politicians, was born on this day in 1930. He died in 1998.

To kickstart his first U.S. Senate campaign, the relatively unknown Chiles, who previously served in the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, embarked on a 91-day walk from Pensacola to Key West, earning him the nickname “Walkin’ Lawton.”

The strategy worked, and Chiles, a Democrat, defeated his opponent, Republican Congressman William C. Cramer, 53.9 percent to 46.1 percent.

Chiles ran for governor of Florida in 1990 against incumbent Bob Martinez, a former mayor of Tampa, and won by a 13-point margin.

During his first term as governor, Chiles led Florida’s health-care reform effort and oversaw recovery from 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, among other accomplishments.

In 1994, Chiles ran for re-election, beating Jeb Bush by fewer than 64,000 votes. During his second term, in 1998, Chiles suffered a heart attack and died, leaving Lieutenant Governor Buddy MacKay to serve the remaining 23 days of his term.

Chiles kickstarted his first senate campaign by doing a walking tour of the state. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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