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Harvard lawyer Bob Graham wasn't afraid of reporters

As Florida bids farewell to its beloved former Gov. Bob Graham, now is a good time for lawyers to ask themselves why they had more fun and made more money in the 20th century.

A graduate of Harvard Law School and a member of the storied family that owned the Washington Post and television stations in Miami and Jacksonville known for their hard-nosed investigative reporting and lawsuit-making that gave us courtroom cameras, Graham left us clues about how Lawyers worked at a time when the profession enjoyed the trust and respect of the public.

As the term mouthpiece suggests, the lawyers of Graham's generation were considered fearless and fully capable of speaking for themselves and certainly for the people they represented. Their entire job was to look the judges, juries, and Rotary Clubs in the eye and make their case. There was no better or more successful practitioner of face-to-face persuasion than Bob Graham, but when he retired from politics, the mainstream media was more interested in disseminating breathless “hot takes” from pollsters, pundits, and practitioners of political theater than themselves to do the arduous work of giving sustained attention to the “old news.”

So it was that ten years after the al-Quida attacks of September 11, 2001, and six years after he left public office, Graham was ready and eager to work with Florida Bulldog to pressure the FBI whose executives worked overtime to cover for establishing connections between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the al-Quida base camp in Sarasota.

Graham was familiar with Bulldog editor Dan Christensen's line. His stories for the Miami Herald in 2006 about hidden and falsified court filings in Broward, Miami-Dade and other Florida counties led to two unanimous Florida Supreme Court decisions banning the practices. Christensen's stories about Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne's private business dealings sparked a federal corruption investigation that landed Jenne in prison in 2007.

So it didn't seem the least strange to Graham to have a two-hour introductory meeting with Christensen at Miami International Airport. No defects. No entourage. No handlers young enough to be his grandchildren with degrees in “political communications” from his alma mater. Just an opportunity for a dedicated public servant to rally a few more reporters and readers around justice for the victims of 9/11 and accountability for Saudi Arabia's unimaginably cruel and ruthless government.

In the last decade of his life, Graham evolved from a trusted source to an active participant in public forums aimed at raising awareness and funds for the independent journalism that Bulldog had created in Florida. Meanwhile, a remarkable number of lawyers, judges and elected officials do not attend meetings or return telephone calls because they are convinced that they are too stupid to speak to the press and public the old-fashioned way.

Florence Beth Snyder is a retired attorney living in Tallahassee, Florida.

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