Reubin O'Donovan Askew was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma on September 11, 1928, one of six children of Leon and Alberta Askew. He moved to Pensacola in 1937. In 1946, he enlisted in the United States Army paratroopers as a private and was discharged as a sergeant in 1948, and served in the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant from 1951 to 1953.
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.
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.
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, and Florida State University, where he began teaching in September 1995, renamed its school of Public Administration and Policy in his honor. He is currently an Eminent Scholar at FSU, a Senior Fellow at its Florida Institute of Government, and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the LeRoy Collins Center for Public Policy.
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