In a large church that was filled to capacity, Florida fondly remembered former Gov. Reubin Askew Wednesday as a man of strong convictions and deep faith who brought his state into the modern era and had the courage and resolve to tell people what they needed to hear.
Faith Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee was crowded with nearly 800 people, including Gov. Rick Scott and five former governors: Bob Graham, Wayne Mixson, Bob Martinez, Buddy MacKay and Charlie Crist. Former Gov. Jeb Bush was unable to attend. Dozens of legislators also attended, along with the Cabinet, Supreme Court justices and people who worked for Askew, served in the Legislature when he did, or were touched by his life.
The most moving eulogy was delivered by Jim Bacchus, who left a job as a young Orlando Sentinel reporter to take a job as a 24-year-old speechwriter for Askew in the governor's office. Bacchus later worked for Askew when he was President Carter's trade ambassador, served two terms in Congress and was chairman of the appellate body of the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
Summing up the central message of Askew's life, Bacchus, a Democrat, directly faced a predominantly Republican crowd of current elected officials.
"Florida is a special place, and it becomes more special still, and it can be as special as any other place in the world if we come together and work together as one state. So bring people together; don't pull them apart,"" Bacchus said in a tone of sternness that Askew himself was known for. "And lead. What good is it to be in public office if you don't lead, if you don't take a chance, if you don't tell people what they need to hear and not just what they want to hear."
Askew was remembered by former Florida State University President Sandy D'Alemberte as stubborn and demanding, someone who had high expectations of others. The program for the service showed a smiling Askew wearing a garnet and gold tie. Askew had such devotion to Florida State University that he once asked a university official to give him play-by-play updates of an FSU baseball game while he was at his vacation home in North Carolina.