Walkin’ Lawton Returned to The Chiles Center
The Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies was pleased to host the Tampa leg of the Florida Historical Society’s book tour for Walkin’ Lawton – the first authorized biography on former U.S. Representative, Senator and Governor Lawton Chiles. Author, John Dos Passos Coggin, conducted over one hundred interviews with Lawton Chiles’ friends, family, and former staff to write an in-depth and compelling book that quickly has become one of the Florida Historical Society’s most published books and already has received praise from high-profile media, political, and academic circles.
Lawton Chiles’ close friend, his former State Health Officer and the founding director of The Chiles Center – Dr. Charles S. Mahan – introduced Coggin before the author gave an enlightening presentation showcasing a series of personal photos of Chiles. The presentation and talk highlighted detailed insights into the life, political career and colorful personality of one of Florida’s most beloved politicians and one of the South’s most progressive Governors. Coggin titled the book as a reference to Lawton Chiles’ legendary nickname earned for his 1,003-mile walk from the Florida Panhandle to the Keys during his run for a seat in the U.S. Senate. This legendary walk across Florida won Chiles the election and “forged a lifelong bond with his state’s land and people.”
Coggin recounted: “The walk was a hugely symbolic event in [Chiles’] life, because it signified his interest in evolution – in personal evolution and political evolution.” “The song of his populism was thrilling and original. I felt that this was a story that deserved to be told. Chiles deserves a strong legacy.”
Because Chiles was best known for his commitment to maternal and child health (MCH) issues during his almost 40 years of public service, the event drew prestigious attendees who continue his legacy in this field today. These attendees included: Lawton Chiles’ son – Ed Chiles; the Dean of USF’s College of Public Health – Donna Petersen, ScD, MHS; the current director of The Chiles Center – William M. Sappenfield, MD, MPH; the first director of the Healthy Start Coalitions Initiative – Dee Jeffers; Hillsborough County Commissioner – Kevin Beckner; Hillsborough County Commissioner – Sandra Murman; the legislative aide to Florida Representative – Mark Danish; and, other former Chiles’ colleagues who helped establish the Center as a leader in women’s and children’s health issues.
After the presentation, Dean Petersen awarded Dr. Charles S. Mahan with a plaque to honor his tireless efforts with Lawton Chiles within the MCH field and his personal contributions to the University’s College of Public Health. The Chiles Center has been redecorated to showcase Lawton Chiles and Dr. Mahan for their roles in improving the health outcomes of Florida’s mothers and children. Take the time to visit The Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies to learn even more!
First Photo: Dr. Charles S. Mahan, Author John Dos Passos Coggin, USF College of Public Health Dean Donna Petersen
Second Photo: Sandy Thomas, Ed Chiles, Dee Jeffers
Written by: Heidi K. Curran, MBA