It's no surprise that Bill Nelson has always fought for Florida first. His Florida roots run deep. He's a fifth-generation Floridian whose family home was just a few miles from where he was launched into orbit in 1986 as a crew member of the Space Shuttle Columbia. From his home in Melbourne, Florida in the 1950s and 1960s, he could see missiles and rockets blasting off from what is now the Kennedy Space Center.
He grew up in Melbourne, where he attended public schools. When he was 14, his father died. As an only child, he had to shoulder a lot of responsibility. He attended the University of Florida, and he went on to earn degrees from Yale University and the University of Virginia School of Law.
In 1971, Bill met Grace Cavert of Jacksonville, Florida, where he was speaking at a statewide convention of young leaders. That evening, Grace went home and woke up her parents to tell them, "I've met the man I'm going to marry."
Grace has been an active partner in Bill's career of public service. She also has pursued her interests in humanitarian aid for developing regions of the world and the underserved in our own communities. She has also been involved in promoting friendship and understanding among women worldwide. Since returning from their honeymoon, when they went door-to-door together to campaign for his first race for the Florida Legislature, they have been and remain a team.They have two grown children, Bill Jr. and Nan Ellen.
His experience includes more than 40 years of public service, first in the Florida State Legislature, then Congress, then on Florida's Cabinet and, since 2001, the United States Senate.
In the Florida Legislature, in the 1970s, Bill Nelson was a leader in education, growth management and the merit selection of judges. He sponsored a law to take on racketeering, one of the nation's first state statutes against computer crimes.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, where Bill served from 1979 to 1991, he was a strong proponent of balancing the federal budget. He believes that just as America's families must balance their budgets, so too should the U.S. government.
Since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000, he has earned a reputation as a consensus builder and problem solver, while consistently being a moderate voice in an increasingly partisan environment.
Over the years, he has been endorsed by all the major newspapers in Florida. The St. Petersburg Times once said, "Bill Nelson fits the mold of responsible moderation" and "has proved himself in the battle with special interests." And the Orlando Sentinel said: "Mr. Nelson has a sense of independence. Although he often agrees with Democrats, ultimately, his conscience dictates his course."
Since coming to the U.S. Senate in 2001, Bill Nelson has fought hard for Florida interests. Whether it's helping to keep Florida bases strong or securing aid for hurricane victims, Bill Nelson has been a leader when it comes to protecting and fighting for the Sunshine State.
From his key position on the Armed Services Committee, Nelson has been instrumental in ensuring that Florida retains its key role as a leading center for military operations. He has also fought at every chance to improve the lot of the state's many veterans.
Nelson also has been a champion for protecting Florida's environment and economy. He has been a staunch foe of the big oil companies that want to drill off the coast, which would encroach on military training and threaten Florida's tourism-driven economy.
Always on Nelson's mind are the state's many seniors. He's been an unwavering defender of Social Security, and he has resisted the wrong-headed attempts by some politicians to put the retirement of millions of Americans into risky investments.
And he has used his leadership position on the Commerce Committee to shine the spotlight on misbehaving companies such as when he pressured automakers to recall cars with defective airbags.
The consistent theme of Nelson's more than four decades of public service has been his willingness to stand up and fight against powerful special interests on behalf of our country and of all Floridians.
That's Bill Nelson.
Fighting For Florida.
Always Has. Always Will.