Yesterdays – Politicians and I


It was a Tuesday morning and I was clearing off my desk at Sarasota Herald-Tribune Bureau so I could dash off to the weekly meeting of the DeSoto County Commissioners. My door opened and in walked a personable gentleman in a western-tailored suit. He extended his hand in greeting and said, “I am Bob Graham and I am running for governor of Florida.”

I invited him to sit down and told him I had been expecting him as my paper had endorsed him and his running mate Wayne Mixon. Mixon’s wife Margie, a Florida school teacher, had taken a year off to help in the campaign.

It was widely known in Florida that Graham and his brother had financed the building of the town of Miami Springs. Mixon, a longtime friend of the candidate, was also a Florida Rancher.

Graham outlined his plans to work one day – an eight hour day, not a photo-op, in various jobs, to better understand his constituency. “I plan to call it ‘WORKING’ and will have each job covered by photographers.” (He later gave me an autographed copy when the book was finished and I consider it one of my most highly-prized accounts of the man who won two terms as governor and was elected to the United States Senate later.)

Whenever either of the candidates or Mrs. Mixon was in town, they always took me to lunch or brunch at the DeSoto Hotel Restaurant. I grew very fond of them and appreciated their “letting their hair down” with me as to how the campaign was going.

Graham was clearly a “man of the people.” He was down-to-earth always and this was first appreciated by the people of Florida.

Mr. Graham was such a success as a senator; he was placed on the Veterans Affairs Committee. Any number of veterans who had had pensions stalled looked to him for help and he always gave it. He wrote to me once-in-awhile to tell me “how things were going.” In fact, after I had retired from that paper and moved back to Ohio where I spent my waking hours writing books, I heard he was planning to run for the Presidency; that this did not materialize gave me pause…

As governor, he had chosen three persons in each county to become a recommending committee to suggest names to fill the unexpired terms of local governmental officials. I was named to that committee and I served proudly.

DeSoto County Sheriff Frank E. Cline and Mrs. Cline invited me to dinner for Florida’s visiting Secretary of State George Firestone. Cline was president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association that year and he and Mrs. Cline were my husband’s and my best friends.

Other favorite politicians were Congressman and Mrs. L. A. “Skip” Bafalis. When they could get home to Fort Myers Beach, I was often invited to their parties. They, like the former governor, were very “down to earth” and easy to know.

The newspaper business taught me that everyone has a story to tell and if I was worth my salt as a reporter, I would write those stories as honestly and fairly as I knew how.

I loved reporting. You never knew when each new day dawned what was going to tax your skills or what interesting person you would meet. I miss that excitement more than I can say. As the old saying goes, “Every dog has his day,” and I was certainly blessed to have had mine.

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