Memory Lives On

It’s hard to believe, but Friday marked the fifth anniversary of the death of Florida's former Governor and U.S. Senator, Lawton Chiles. He's remembered by many as a man who loved the people he served, and whose impact on the Sunshine State lives on.

A common theme is seeing Chiles as someone who had an incredible ability to connect with people, and people say on this fifth anniversary of his death, his effect on those he worked with even those he just met lives on.

April Herrle still keeps piles of press clippings from her days as Gov. Chiles' communications director. Professionally, she remembers his work like the tobacco settlement and money for schools. Personally, she remembers his sense of humor.

"He was very funny, loved to play jokes on people, in the midst of heated debates on controversial issues, he would crack a joke. Make stressful work fun," said
April Herrle, a former Chiles Communications Director.

Ron Sachs is another former Chiles communications director. He just produced a 30-minute documentary on the governor.

"I think people who didn't know him knew he was different just because of the way he came to statewide prominence, walking about the state. He seemed to care about people, he reached out to people, and they sensed that he was different," says Ron Sachs.

His video is meant to be a case biography set to be distributed to middle schools and high schools around the state.

Kim Orr is executive director of the Lawton Chiles Foundation where Chiles' legacy lives on through advocacy of children's issues.

"He was such a unique and special person who connected so personally with the people that he knew that. His energy is still out there and moving around in this state and is very much alive. It's not hard to keep his legacy alive. Not hard at all," says Kim Orr, Executive Director of the Chiles Foundation.

We often think of a politician's last year in office as sort of a lame duck term, but it was in his last year that Gov. Chiles negotiated the tobacco settlement worth billions.
He also pushed for $3.2 billion in funding to ease school overcrowding.

On the school issue, obviously a legacy is Lawton Chiles High School here in Tallahassee. As far as any idea of how many schools are named for him around the state, we weren't able to get a number, but the Chiles Foundation says it's heard of numerous middle schools and some high schools around the state, certainly a credit to one of the governor's last projects to relieve overcrowded schools.