Few held much hope for Bob Graham when he set out to run for governor of Florida 25 years ago.
The son of a well-to-do dairyman who also had run for governor, Graham was bright and driven to succeed. Yet he appeared aloof, and even friends wondered how he ever could connect with voters.
Few hold much hope for his presidential ambitions today, save for his daughters and wife, who gather for frequent reunions here at a favorite retreat, their family cattle ranch near Albany. In the magnolia-shaded, red-brick homestead at the Graham Angus Farm, 10,000 acres of rolling pastures for Black Angus cattle and old pecan groves, Graham and wife Adele spent last Thanksgiving with just daughter Gwen and her family.
"I've known for a long time that he was thinking about this," says Gwen Logan, firstborn of four daughters. "Did I encourage him to run? Yes. My comment to him was that if this was something he really wanted to do, for him to look back on his career and say 'I wish I had run' would be a shame."
Daniel Robert Graham, 66, already has a remarkable career for a political leader who never really fit the mold. He is a Harvard-trained lawyer and millionaire real-estate developer who remade himself as "Bob" with 100 "workdays," shoveling out horse stalls and scaling mullet in his first campaign for governor.
In nearly 40 years of public service, undefeated in five statewide elections, Graham has logged a dozen years as a state lawmaker in a Legislature whose horse-trading and capitulation he disdained.
He served two terms as a tax-raising governor in a state loath to raise taxes, boosting state revenues by more than $1 billion to benefit public schools, transportation and the environment.
Finally, he has served three terms in a U.S. Senate where leading roles eluded him until recently -- serving long enough as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a new era of terrorism to develop a profound sense that his country is headed in the wrong direction.
Leadership, friends say, suits him better than lawmaking.
"To succeed in the Legislature, you must be a compromiser and a trader and swapper," says Robin Gibson, a close friend since their freshman year at the University of Florida. "You compromise and sacrifice, and principle goes out the window in order to be practical. That is tough for Bob to do."
Graham, in short, is more at ease with principle than with people. He is a voracious reader who forgets little. He has a penchant for talking too much in political circles and oftentimes over the heads of audiences.
Frugal to a fault, he has difficulty throwing anything away and refuses to replace a sluggish old home computer clogged with ancient e-mail. A passionate golfer, he can focus on a putt long enough to cook the ball. He keeps a diary of daily events both momentous and menial, recorded in a pocket-sized spiral notebook, the newest in a collection of 2,500. A "workaholic," he is known for taking work home and telephoning his chief of staff near midnight on Sundays.
Graham also became a champion for public education before the nation awoke to the failings of U.S. schools when the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued its report, "A Nation at Risk," 20 years ago this month.
And, after he and his brother paved over most of their father's dairy land, creating the planned suburban enclave of Miami Lakes, Graham became a protector of the environment, working to save rivers, beaches and the Everglades.
Now he has won a second lease on life.
This is a man who -- as his physician's files revealed during his first campaign for U.S. Senate in 1986 -- could not stand the sight of his own blood. Now, recovered from heart surgery Jan. 31, two arteries bypassed and a leaking aortic valve replaced with that of a cow, Graham is embarking on a campaign for president.
Aware that he lacks a certain sizzle with a television camera, Graham flatly says: "I don't particularly aspire to that." Asked whether this will handicap his campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination in 2004, Graham says: "We'll find out."
With these sparse words, Graham struggles to tackle the lackluster image some still hold of him. As a legislator, he freely admits: "If you asked me what time it was, I'd explain the mechanism of the clock. I also had the habit of speaking in a Roman numerical outline."
As a candidate for president, he says, he is training like a reporter to "capture the reader's interest. That's the mode of effective communication in politics, particularly in television, where you're so limited in time."
Early ambitionsIf his family has waited a lifetime for this announcement, Graham first declared his intentions of running for governor when he was 8 years old. His father had run that year, 1944, and failed at nomination.
"He said he was going to be governor," recalls Bill Graham, his older brother. "But, see, dad had just run for governor, so that just consumes you."
The father, Ernest "Cap" Graham, was a gold-mining engineer raised and schooled in Michigan who served in World War I as a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers. He had met his first wife, a schoolteacher, when he mined the Black Hills of South Dakota. Their first son, Philip, was born in Terry, S.D., in 1915.
After the war, Cap Graham signed up with Pennsylvania Sugar Co., preparing to make sugar in South Florida. By 1921, he had moved wife Florence, son Philip and his sister Mary to a rustic camp in the Everglades. It was called Pennsuco, a settlement of 100 outside of Miami.
Pennsuco was run like a plantation, its workers paid in scrip. Cap Graham, a hard-driving teetotaler, was "squire" of the camp. He built a sugar mill. And his second son, Bill, was born in 1924.
Then came the hurricane of 1926. The company closed up shop in 1932, leaving thousands of acres to Cap Graham.
The company already had a dairy, for the benefit of workers. So in 1932, in the depth of the Great Depression, the captain opened "Graham's Dairy" with one Model A truck.
Then the family faced another, more devastating, setback. Cap Graham's wife died in 1934.
Cap Graham remarried, wedding Hilda Simmons, a high-school teacher and country doctor's daughter from the tiny town of DeFuniak Springs whom he had met on a bus ride across the Panhandle.
He also found political aspiration and won a seat in the Florida Senate in 1936.
Bob Graham was born Nov. 9, 1936.
He was "a babe in arms" on his first trip to Tallahassee, recalls brother Bill, 12 years older, remembering a stop in Perry "to warm up his milk."
Their father was 52. Bob's relationship to him more like that of a grandson.
"Dad was a man who had a lot of life experience," Bob Graham says. "He was a wonderful storyteller and folk philosopher of his views on life."
Graham says he learned from his father how to size up people. Cap Graham gave most the "benefit of the doubt," but if he found someone misinformed about something he understood -- such as dairy farming or mining -- he assumed they were misguided in general.
"I have found that to be a good standard," his youngest son says.
Dad also was demanding.
"You had to get good grades," Bill says. "If you didn't, it was a disaster."
Asked about his brother's compulsion with a notebook, Bill pulls one from his own shirt pocket: "Dad was very organized" and kept his own notebooks.
"He'd go around the dairy and keep notes," Bill Graham says. "Bob goes a little further than we all do. But the notebook thing is a family trait."
Bob's daughter Gwen, trim mother of three, writes down her weight each day.
Worked in dairyWhen Bob Graham was growing up, he and his siblings worked in the family dairy.
He mixed cow feed, loaded manure, milked cows, pitched hay, built fences and paved roads. At 14, he showed a prize Holstein at a 4-H show in Orlando. At 16, he was named Dade County's "best all 'round teenage boy" by The Miami Herald.
Graham had inherited more than a taste for the dairy, however. His father the state senator had placed third in a Democratic primary election for governor in 1944.
"He lost rather soundly, which shocked him, I think," Bill Graham says.
Their father sold the dairy to a local chain in the 1950s.
Bob Graham, raised in public schools, won election as president at Miami High School. Robin Gibson, president at rival Edison High, grew close to Graham during their freshman year at the University of Florida and pledged to the same fraternity, Sigma Nu.
"He was studious and conscientious," Gibson says. "For the guys at Florida, in 1955, it was girls, sports, study and beer hall. . . . Graham had a larger perspective.
"People knew his dad had been a state senator and had run for governor and that Bob was studying political science and that he would consider a public life," he says. But "from the fraternity perspective, he didn't fit the mold of what a typical politician was, the potbellied guy who slapped everybody on the back and had jokes for everybody, a hale fellow well-met. Graham didn't fit that. He was Phi Beta Kappa."
Though he was well-heeled, Graham was famously "tight" with his money. The other brothers at Sigma Nu paid to have term papers typed. Graham pecked out his own.
"I am down in the patio drinking a beer," Gibson recalls. "Graham is tight. He isn't going to pay anybody to type a paper. Up on the third floor of the fraternity house, I can hear this typewriter going. He was really slow. Click, click, click."
Graham also served as president of the fraternity. Like all the fraternities at Florida, still racially segregated in the 1950s, it was exclusive. Another close friend Graham made at Florida, "Buddy" Shorstein, had to join another fraternity, "the Jewish fraternity."
Sam Proctor, who taught history for 50 years, taught Graham in a graduate-level seminar on Florida history. "He got an A," Proctor says, "and I didn't give too many A's."
Since then, Proctor has tape-recorded Graham in more than 30 hours of conversation for an oral-history project at the university in Gainesville.
"Ordinarily, an oral-history recording takes six or seven hours, no more than that, but Bob's has gone on forever," Proctor says. "He not only has a great sense of history, but he also has a tremendous memory."
Graham has an encyclopedic way of explaining to traveling companions the history of everything they encounter, with impromptu and detailed lectures on unfolding scenery.
Shorstein, an accountant in Jacksonville who has served Graham as chief of staff in both Tallahassee and Washington, says Graham plays as hard as he works -- and probably does not play enough.
"He loves golf so much," Shorstein says with a chuckle about Graham's laserlike putting. "Once he reads it, he can stand over it with putter ready to strike it, and he almost goes into a trance.
"He probably doesn't do as much unwinding as he should. He works day and night."
In college, Graham started dating a girl a year and a half younger from Miami Shores, Adele Khoury, whom Gibson had known since childhood.
"She dressed perfectly," Gibson says. "She was a girl who did just everything right."
Over a double-date dinner at Joe's Spaghetti House in Tallahassee, Bob Graham, 19, told Adele and friends that he someday would be governor. The two married in 1959, and Adele finished college at Boston University while her ambitious husband attended Harvard Law School.
Phil Graham, 21 years older than Bob, had graduated from Harvard Law. He won a clerkship at the Supreme Court. Working as a clerk for Justice Felix Frankfurter, in 1940, Phil Graham married Katherine Meyer, daughter of a Wall Street financier, Eugene Meyer, who bought The Washington Post in bankruptcy for $825,000 seven years earlier.
Meyer made his son-in-law publisher of the Post, in 1946. Graham ran the powerful paper for nearly two decades.
Phil Graham, publisher of the Post and a witty and charming socialite with access to senators and presidents, initiated his little brother in the parlor conversations of Georgetown, where the second Graham to attend Harvard Law held his own. Phil also enlisted Bob to manage Southern delegates for Lyndon Baines Johnson at the Democratic National Convention in 1960.
Land developersBack home, Miami was booming. And land developers were courting the Grahams to sell their thousands of acres. Bill Graham said they had decided to sell when the offers reached $3,000 an acre.
But then Bill developed a notion: "I got the idea of making one community out of it. Miami Lakes was my idea."
The two brothers traveled to Europe to study planned communities. They called theirs New Town.
In the summer of 1962, under a tent on a pile of sand amid their cow pastures, the Grahams cut the ribbon on a community that would secure their fortunes forever. Houses started at $13,850, two bedrooms, one bath and a garage.
Cap Graham and his three sons gathered there, Gibson recalls. But soon after, Phil Graham took his own life. Charismatic but troubled, Phil suffered from manic depression. He shot himself Aug. 3, 1963.
"I felt as if my father had passed away," says Bob Graham, who wishes the confidant of presidents were here to confide in today. "I frequently have wished I could have picked up the phone and called him to get advice."
Phil's wife, Katherine Graham, assumed the reins of her father's paper. Since then, The New York Times has duly noted that Bob Graham is the only candidate for president who ever spat on Kay Graham. He was a toddler at the time.
Cap Graham died two years after Miami Lakes was founded, in 1964, leaving Bill and Bob Graham to build the town.
The Graham Cos. developed a model community of more than 20,000 people that today offers a mix of housing, apartments and commerce -- and still left space for a picturesque cow pasture in the middle of it all. Bill Graham's children run the business.
Bill's son-in-law runs Don Shula's Steakhouses. Shula, a friend of the Graham family and legendary coach of the Miami Dolphins, lived and raised his family in Miami Lakes.
Bob Graham's children, enrolled as he was in public schools, have known him as he knew his father, as a politician and businessman. His firstborn was 3 when he was elected to the Legislature, and she celebrated her wedding in the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee.
Daughter Gwen, remembers the old family home, one story with a courtyard in the middle, in the Loch Lomond section of the new Miami Lakes. The children grew up there and rode their bikes in the courtyard.
"Having four girls, I always tease my dad about growing up in a sorority house," Gwen Logan says. "He always had to try to get a word in edgewise."
She recalls only one harsh rebuke as a child.
She skipped school one day to prepare for a horse show.
"Probably since I was a child, the most upset he's been with me [was when] I went in to do some work on his computer," she says. "He has an old computer that's very slow. He had thousands of e-mails that he had not deleted. I decided to go in and clean them out. He was, 'Oh, my God!' He's over it now. He's forgiven me for this."
Gwen turned 40 the day her father went in for heart surgery. She plans to campaign for him in New Hampshire and Iowa. She already has "a campaign dog," Georgia, a 1-year-old golden retriever that came from the farm near Albany.
Worth millionsThat farm has played an important role in the Graham family for four decades.
Cap Graham bought the first parcel of land near Albany in the 1960s. Today, it encompasses 10,300 acres, mostly for cattle-grazing, 950 planted in pecans. The land has 1,600 head of Black Angus -- the only meat that Shula's serves.
The family enterprises have enabled Graham to invest $750,000 of his own money in his first campaign for governor, in 1978. And, by the time Graham ran for the U.S. Senate in 1986, he personally was worth $8 million. Today, under federal rules, he lists his net worth as something between $7 million and $30 million.
But he is simply "Doodle" to his 10 grandchildren, a name that Gwen's oldest child bestowed on him.
The family has traveled the world; a photograph of Graham's mother rests on a table in her granddaughter's living room: the late Hilda Simmons Graham, the schoolteacher whose specialty was chocolate marshmallows, standing before the Taj Mahal.
Still, Gwen says, her father likes to shop at Wal-Mart and Target. And, for 25 years Graham has worn only neckties emblazoned with maps of Florida.
Campaigning for president, Graham finally has shed the polyester Florida ties for silk-woven emblems of American flags.
People who suggest Graham is aiming for anything short of the presidency -- running to stake a claim as his party's running mate or satisfied with seeking re-election to the Senate should he fail -- underestimate his true intentions.
"They don't know him," says Charlie Reed, longtime friend and one-time aide. "He had about a 2 percent chance when he got elected governor.
"We were laughing about that the other day. He said, 'I've got a better chance of being president than I did of being governor of Florida.' "
When Graham rolls out his trademark campaign "workdays" on the presidential trail, spending a day in another man's shoes, the true test will start.
"What do you think his first workday will be?" Reed suggests. "How about working in a milk barn in Iowa? That might be something he knows something about."
Mark Silva can be reached at 407-420-5034 firstname.lastname@example.org. Tamara Lytle can be reached at 202-824-8255 or email@example.com.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times