TALLAHASSEE -- Former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew, who in recent months has battled pneumonia and hip replacement surgery, is back in the hospital with family members close by his side, and close friends describe his condition as worsening.
Askew, 85, was one of the most popular and effective governors in Florida history. From 1971 to 1979, the Democrat from Pensacola directed an an ambitious legislative agenda, including passage of stronger ethics laws, merit retention for judges, the state’s first corporate profits tax and creation of regional water management districts. He also guided the state through a period of explosive population growth and school desegregation and in 1978, his last year in office, he led a statewide crusade to prevent casino gambling in South Florida.
An advocate of racial tolerance like his mentor, former Gov. LeRoy Collins, Askew appointed the first African-American justice to a Southern state Supreme Court: Joseph Hatchett of Clearwater in 1975. In recent years, the two men shared their recollections with audiences in what they called “The Joe and Rude Show.”
Askew’s son, Kevin, said that the family declines at the present time to make any public statements about the former governor’s condition.
Askew made several public appearances in the fall of 2013, and appeared increasingly frail. Of his latest health setback, long-time friend Talbot (Sandy) D’Alemberte, the former president of Florida State University who served with Askew in the Legislature, said: “We are pessimistic.”
Other long-time Askew associates voiced similar concerns, but have declined to speak publicly out of respect for the family’s privacy.
Askew, a native of Muskogee, Okla., came with his mother, brothers and sisters to Pensacola in the 1930s, where he grew up and attended FSU. He spent more than two decades there as a teacher of courses in government and public policy. He served as former President Jimmy Carter’s U.S. trade representative and was an unsuccessful candidate for president in 1984.