Rhea Grafton Chiles

December 1, 1930November 8, 2015

Rhea Grafton Chiles, wife of the late Florida Governor Lawton Chiles, and beloved mother of Tandy Chiles, Lawton ("Bud") Chiles III, Ed Chiles, and Rhea Gay Chiles, died at her home in Anna Maria Island, Florida, on November 8, 2015, of natural causes, at the age of 84. Rhea Grafton was born on December 1, 1930, to Philip and May Grafton of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After her family moved to Florida, Rhea attended schools in Dade County. She attended the University of Florida, where she served on the staff of the student newspaper, The Alligator, and was president of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority. At the University of Florida, in 1948, she met Lawton Chiles. Rhea Grafton and Lawton Chiles were married in Lakeland, Florida, on January 25, 1951.The two shared a partnership in life and politics for more than 47 years, until his death on December 12, 1998. She supported Lawton Chiles through his many political campaigns, from the Florida House of Representatives, to the Florida Senate, to the United States Senate, and to the Governor's Office. He called her "the best political sounding board that I have." Governor Chiles often talked of his "inner voices" that helped guide him through his most important decisions. Rhea was the most important of those voices. It was Rhea who had the idea for Lawton, then a state senator from Lakeland, to walk from Jay, Florida, to Key West as he sought a seat in the United States Senate in 1970. It earned him the nickname "Walkin' Lawton" and the Senate seat. In their first year living in Washington, Rhea noticed a dilapidated but historic row house on Capitol Hill. She arranged for its purchase, rehabilitated it, and founded within its walls "Florida House," the only state "embassy" in the Nation's Capital. Florida House annually hosts 10,000 visitors to Washington. As Florida's First Lady from 1991-1998, Rhea Chiles championed many notable causes. She upgraded the technological resources of the Governor's Office and made the first inventory of the Governor's Mansion possessions and furnishings. In 1997, she envisioned, edited, and oversaw the production of "700 North Adams Street," an illustrated history of Florida's two Governor's Mansions and the families who occupied them. Among her most significant contributions, and one of which she was most proud, was her vision that students should be consulted in designing the anti-tobacco youth program that resulted from Governor Chiles' historic tobacco settlement. Her vision ultimately became the "Truth" anti-tobacco campaign, which has been highly successful in curbing youth smoking and has become a model for the nation. An accomplished artist, Rhea's painting of the Florida's Myakka River, "Heartland," was awarded as the "Heartland Award" by Governor Chiles to Floridians who exemplified long-term commitment and service to their communities. Her watercolor, "Window to Washington," which depicts the view of the Capitol from the upstairs window of Florida House on Capitol Hill, is considered the "artistic signature" of the important gathering place that she founded. Most recently, she founded The Studio at Gulf and Pine, a community cultural center near her home in Anna Maria, Florida. Rhea Chiles was preceded in death by her parents, her brother, Ed Grafton, and her husband, Lawton Chiles. She is survived by her four children, grandchildren Joe Lawton Barrett, Tandy Bondi, Lawton Chiles IV, Katie Chiles Ottenweller, Geoffrey Chiles, Ashley Chiles, Cristin Chiles, Lexi MacKinnon Zuo, Alexander D. MacKinnon V, Annesley MacKinnon and three great-grandchildren. A celebration of her life will be held on Monday, Nov. 16th at 11:00am, Faith Presbyterian Church, Tallahassee, Fl. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Children's Home Society ( or the Lawton Chiles Foundation ( send any correspondence to 12008 Miccosukee Road, Tallahassee, Fl. 32309.


Rhea Grafton Chiles

have a memory or condolence to add?


May 2, 2017

To Lawton 4th, Katie and Geoffrey, a grandmother represents kindness and goodness and I mourn with you and your family.


November 17, 2015

May God be your refuge, strength and helper that will provide your family peace and comfort to endue the days ahead.-Psalm 62:8. Know that Prayers are being said in your behalf.

Bruce Minnick

November 16, 2015

Rhea Chiles long ago learned that this fallen earth's greatest losses are also Heaven's greatest gains. Oh how we will miss you Rhea.

Martha Marth

November 14, 2015

Rhea was a lovely First Lady of our state. Appreciated her establishment of Florida House in Washington. It was a nice welcome for Floridians visiting the capitol city.

Tim & Debby McCaig

November 14, 2015

Dear Ed,
Our hearts goes out to you and the entire Chiles family at this difficult time. We are sending you and Tina love and prayers.
~Emily Dickinson:
"Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality."

Janet Beirman

November 14, 2015

My deepest condolences to Rhea and your family. A mother is so hard to loose. May God give you peace! See you 2/14 Rhea!

November 14, 2015

So Sorry for your loss. May the GOD of all comfort help you and your fanily in this time of sorrow PSALMS 29:11

Bruce Ross

November 13, 2015

I had the pleasure to meet this wonderful women.May her soul Rest In Peace.

Ella Andrews

November 12, 2015

RIP, Mrs. Chiles & Prayers for the Family.


November 12, 2015


(((Former Lakeland resident)))