Askew, a Democrat who served as governor from 1971 to 1979, died Thursday at the age of 85.
Family, friends and fellow Floridians paid their respects to the late Gov. Reubin Askew, who lay in state Tuesday at the Historic Capitol.
Honor guards carried the flag-draped coffin up the sidewalk flanked by old friends and dignitaries including Gov. Rick Scott and first lady Ann Scott, Cabinet members and legislators. Once inside, former first lady Donna Lou Askew placed a single white rose on the coffin, which was on display on the second floor in between the old House and Senate chambers next to his official portrait.
Former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, whom Askew appointed circuit judge in early 1978 before naming him Broward County sheriff later in the year, said the late governor was one of the few people he's met who could have been president of the United States, a job Askew sought briefly in 1984.
"I recall when I was an aide in the state Senate, and he was there at the time, people would call him 'goody two shoes' in a positive way," Butterworth recalled. "Some people thought he was not going to be strong enough to be a governor. He might have been the strongest governor we ever had."
Askew, a Democrat who served as governor from 1971 to 1979, died Thursday at the age of 85. He was a vocal supporter of 1967's Sunshine Law, which required meetings of local boards to be open to the public. After failing to win support from lawmakers for tougher financial-disclosure laws for public officials, he became the driving force behind the Sunshine Amendment, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 1976.
He overhauled the process of appointing judges in Florida, campaigned unsuccessfully against a ballot proposal to end busing as part of school desegregation and fought for environmental protections.
Doug Sessions, who served as a special assistant for Askew from the mid to late 1970s, recalled that during the Sunshine Amendment campaign, he and other staff members would leave the office at 5 o'clock to collect signatures all over Tallahassee. He said others did the same all over the state.
"It's a sad day," said Sessions, president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida. "Reubin Askew personified everything good about government. He was smart as a whip. He was the most ethical person I've ever known. He literally had no fear when it came to doing what was right for the state of Florida."
In 1975, Askew appointed Joseph Hatchett to the Florida Supreme Court, making him the first African American to serve on the high court. Hatchett said the bold appointment was "shattering" to the state at the time.
"It started breaking down racial barriers in Florida," said Hatchett, who was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Florida Senate on Tuesday passed a resolution to honor Askew.
Former Senate President Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, recalled how her start in public life was shaped by him when she first was elected to the House in 1974.
"People were amazed at the change he was doing," Margolis said, recalling Askew was able to ignore the criticism against him. "It just rolled off of him. He kept doing more and more and more. It was a very heady time for him."
State Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said those who approached the Florida State alum in the president's box at Doak Campbell Stadium had best be ready to discuss football seriously and pay attention to the action on the field.
He lauded Askew for the principles he advocated.
"He led the way to make sure every person in the state of Florida had an equal opportunity," Thrasher said.
Ron Sachs, who served as Askew's deputy press secretary from 1976 to 1977, said the former governor pushed for civil rights, equal education for children and transparency for public officials.
"Gov. Askew is so integral to Florida evolving into its best self," said Sachs, president and CEO of Sachs Media Group. "He did courageous things and became a national model for good government."
Askew's viewing attracted a mix of people, from students born well after his time in the Governor's Mansion to families on spring break hoping to teach their children about civic leadership.
"He took us through the end of Jim Crow in Florida, which I'm very aware of having grown up in Jim Crow segregation, although I didn't know what it was when I was growing up," said Joe Lama, a retired state worker. "So I'm thankful for that."
Landy Wade, a senior at Florida State University, said Askew is discussed in his history classes, particularly his work to desegregate schools. He attended the viewing with his girlfriend, Jennifer Loving.
"He's just one of the greats we've talked about," Wade said. "I didn't want to miss the opportunity."
Jennifer Martin, who lives in Broward County, was visiting the Capitol as part of her membership in the Coalition for the Education of Exceptional Students. She said her family moved to Florida when she was a teenager, and her father named the family cat after Askew.
"I didn't pay much attention as a teenager, but years later I realized he was a good governor and I agreed with a lot that he did," she said. "I was very sad to hear that he passed away. He was progressive, and he brought Florida into the 21st century."