LAWTON CHILES was born in Lakeland, Florida. He attended the University of Florida, earning a bachelor's degree in 1952 and a law degree in 1955. He also served in the U.S. Army as an artillery officer in Korea from 1953 to 1954. He served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1958 to 1966 and in the Florida Senate from 1966 to 1970. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1970, where he served until 1989. In Congress, he became the first Floridian to serve as chair of the Senate Budget Committee. Before his election as governor, he established and chaired the National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality. He became governor of Florida in 1991 and he was reelected in 1994. In 1997, Chiles and Attorney General Bob Butterworth announced Florida's multibillion-dollar settlement with the tobacco industry. Chiles was one of the nation's most vocal tobacco critics, and helped his cause by sneaking a law through the legislature that stripped Big Tobacco of several key defenses. Just three weeks before he was to leave office, he died suddenly of a heart attack on Dec. 12, 1998. Chiles, who served more than 40 years in public life, fought to improve health care for all Floridians, especially children.
Florida State Archives holds the official Governor papers of Lawton Chiles.