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Wayne Mixson, who served 3 days as Florida governor, dies at 98

Mixson, a North Florida farmer, was the lieutenant governor of Bob Graham

TALLAHASSEE — Wayne Mixson, a North Florida farmer who served two terms as lieutenant governor and a brief stint as governor, died Wednesday at his home in Tallahassee. He was 98.

Mixson was elected lieutenant governor in 1978 and 1982 as the running mate of Democrat Bob Graham but is probably best remembered for serving three days as governor in early 1987. That came after Graham was elected to the U.S. Senate and stepped down as governor before his term ended to go to Washington.

“By an unprecedented twist of fate, Lt. Governor Mixson assumed the office of the governor of Florida for three days,” biographical information on the Florida governor’s mansion website said. “Upon vacating his office to assume the duties as a United States senator, Governor Graham triggered the short-lived ascendancy of his lieutenant governor into office as Florida’s 39th governor.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Graham, left, poses with his running mate Wayne Mixson of Marianna in Graham’s room at a Miami Hotel Tuesday, Nov. 7, 1978 while looking at election returns. In the center next to their husbands are Adele Graham and Margie Mixson. (AP Photo/Jim Bourdier) [ JIM BOURDIER | AP ]

The biographical information added, “His proudest achievement, spoken in characteristic good humor, was: ‘I wanted to be known as the governor who did the least damage to Florida.’”

Mixson, a farmer from Jackson County, served in the Florida House before becoming lieutenant governor and state commerce secretary under Graham. President Jimmy Carter in 1979 appointed Mixson as a special ambassador to Ecuador.

“Governor Mixson dedicated his life to serving his community, his state and his country,” Mixson’s family said in a statement Wednesday. “Guided by his conscience and a love for the Sunshine State, he served Florida with great honor.”

Mixson was born in 1922 in New Brockton, Ala., and served in the Navy during World War II before graduating from the University of Florida. He is survived by his wife of 72 years, Margie Grace. Among his extended family members are great-nephew Jason Shoaf, a Port St. Joe Republican who was elected last year to represent a large swath of North Florida in the House.

Mixson was inducted in 1996 into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame, which described on its website his deep involvement in farming and rural issues.

“Gov. Wayne Mixson’s leadership ability was recognized early, and as president of his local county Farm Bureau, he worked tirelessly to get telephones installed in rural areas and to eradicate hog cholera from Florida,” the hall of fame website said. “Mixson’s career as a statesman began with his election to the Florida House of Representatives in 1967. As chairman of the House Agriculture Committee for eight years, he passed hundreds of measures affecting every segment of agriculture.”

The announcement of his death Wednesday said Mixson’s family will hold a private gathering.

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