Photo Exhibits

Photo exhibits spotlight various topics in Florida history, and are accompanied by brief text intended to place selected materials in historical context.

Bob Graham's Workdays

In 1977, state legislator and relatively unknown gubernatorial candidate, Bob Graham, created campaign publicity by undertaking a series of 100 "workdays." Graham announced he would experience the lives of ordinary Floridians firsthand by working their jobs. Although the model for this innovative strategy was Lawton Chiles' walk across the state during his successful 1970 campaign for the US Senate, the initial idea for a workday was not Graham's. In 1974, during a committee meeting, Graham began complaining at the poor level of the civic awareness of Florida's students. A frustrated high school teacher, Sue Reilly, dared the young legislator to teach a class himself for one day. He agreed, thinking it would never happen. But Reilly set up for him to teach after Labor Day at Carol City High School in Miami Lakes, Graham's hometown. Publicly committed, Graham taught the class. In 1977, Graham would count the teaching stint as his first workday.

Throughout 1977 and 1978, Graham worked all sorts of jobs from lobster fisher, mullet gutter, shrimper, and dive boat operator to short order cook, bellhop, social worker, and plumber. He even spent a night riding with the Tallahassee Police Department, which included the discovery and investigation of a near-fatal shooting. He also spent two days as a temporary worker, including applying for food stamps. His final job before the 1978 election was as a housewife.

The experience converted Graham from a candidate with zero name recognition (and few supporters) to Florida's next governor. Other gubernatorial candidates in 1978 included such well-known politicians as Secretary of State Bruce Smathers, former governor Claude Kirk, and Jacksonville mayor Hanz Tazler. In the process, it also transformed the self-proclaimed introvert to an avid conversationalist. Finally, the workdays gave him insight into the lives of working people, as well as valuable political ammunition during his first gubernatorial and later campaigns. In 1978, Graham published Workdays, an account of his experiences.

Of course, the workdays made for good television and garnered ample newspaper coverage as well. Graham followed a couple of rules in order to stay legitimate in the eyes of voters. He worked the entire shift. He only allowed the press to be present for a part of that shift. And he did all aspects of the job. After winning the election, Graham kept up the workdays throughout his terms as governor and US Senator and during his brief presidential candidacy in 2003. He has worked 921 jobs in over 109 cities and five states.