Pensacola mayor Ashton Hayward announced today that the city will honor one of Pensacola’s favorite sons with the dedication of the Reubin O’Donovan Askew Terminal at the Pensacola International Airport.
Mayor Hayward will issue a proclamation to the members of the late governor’s family and will unveil a plaque and special dedication art piece during a ceremony on March 13 at 2 p.m. at the airport.
“The Reubin O’Donovan Askew Terminal at the Pensacola International Airport is being renamed and dedicated in honor of the late Reubin O’Donovan Askew, a celebrated former Florida governor and beloved Pensacolian for his love and service to our city, state, and our country,” the city said in a statement released today.
Askew, who served as Florida’s governor from 1971 to 1979, died in 2014 at the age of 86. He spent more than a half-century in politics, becoming the state’s first governor to serve two consecutive terms.
Born in 1928, Askew was the youngest of six children of Leon Askew and Alberta O’Donovan Askew.
He graduated from Pensacola High School in 1946, served two years in the Army and, through the G.I. Bill, attended Florida State in Tallahassee, where he was student body president. In 1951, he became an Air Force officer during the Korean War. In 1956 he graduated from the University of Florida law school and would go on to start the law firm of Askew & Levin, now known as Levin Papantonio.
After two years serving as assistant solicitor for Escambia County, Askew won a seat in Florida’s House of Representatives in 1958. He served four years in the House, and eight more as a state senator, and then launched a successful campaign for governor.
Through his governorship, Askew became increasingly better known on the national stage, eventually becoming favored as the pick for the presidency in 1976. In what was later considered by many observers to be a missed opportunity, Askew decided he wasn’t ready for the job of president. Party leaders instead tapped a fellow New South governor, Georgia’s Jimmy Carter, who would later be elected the nation’s 39th president.
In 1979, President Carter brought Askew on to serve in his cabinet, naming him United States trade representative, a position he held for two years. Askew later mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the presidency in 1984.
A Harvard study called him one of the century’s 10 best state leaders, along with Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt.
In his first term, Askew pushed through a reformed corporate income tax for large national corporations and eased taxes on Floridians. Askew also accomplished far-reaching environmental conservation, protecting environmentally fragile lands, restricting coastal construction and blocking oceanfront casinos.
Askew’s enduring legacy was founded in promoting racial equality and pushing ethics reforms in what was one of the most corruption-ridden states in the Deep South in the 1970s.
Among his most impactful accomplishments was his efforts to integrate state government and schools, starting with the Highway Patrol and school busing. He named African-Americans to state commissions and boards, and supported proposals to bus children to desegregate public schools.
After a landslide reelection in 1974, Askew appointed the first black justice of the Florida Supreme Court and the first black person since Reconstruction to head a state agency. He pushed for open government laws, enacting the state’s celebrated Sunshine Amendment, the first time the state constitution was amended by voters.
Upon retirement, Askew later taught government and politics at every large university in the state, including at Florida State University, which named its school of public administration and policy after him. The University of Florida also named its institute of politics and society after Askew.