CBSN

Last Farewells For Gov. Chiles

National political figures, family members, and longtime friends remembered Gov. Lawton Chiles Wednesday as a common man and an uncommon statesman.

"He did so much for all of us, and we are here to thank him and remember him," said pastor Glenn Bass of Faith Presbyterian Church. "He walked with us and for us down many paths. The paths that he took were sometimes winding, and they were often untraveled."

During the early part of a funeral service punctuated with laughter, five of Chiles' grandchildren sang a bittersweet version of Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World.

Burial was to follow at Roselawn Cemetery at Advent Episcopal Church.

The 68-year-old Democratic governor and former U.S. senator died of heart disease Saturday, just 23 days before turning his office over to Republican Gov.-elect Jeb Bush.

A hearse carrying his body in a simple pine casket draped with an American flag left the old Florida Capitol 45 minutes behind schedule to give a line of mourners one last chance to say goodbye.

Buddy MacKay, who became governor when his longtime friend and two-time running mate died, walked behind the casket as eight national guardsmen carried it down the Capitol steps.

Earlier Wednesday, mourners filed into the Old Capitol building in Tallahassee to pay their respect to Chiles, where he lay in state.

MacKay, the friend and confidant who convinced Chiles to resurrect his political career by running for governor after leaving the Senate, was Chiles' lieutenant governor and took over the governorship early Sunday morning, still shocked after learning of his friend's death.

MacKay declared Wednesday an official day of mourning in Florida.

Chiles' friend from his days in the U.S. Senate, former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, also was a scheduled speaker.

On Tuesday, a funeral procession called the "Journey from Century" passed through the small towns of the Florida Panhandle Tuesday, taking Chiles' coffin over roads he walked while campaigning for office.

Chiles first came to the town of Century nearly 30 years ago to start a 1,000-mile-plus campaign hike that took him along the length of the state to Key West and led to the U.S. Senate and the Governor's Mansion.

That tour earned him the name "Walkin' Lawton," and Tuesday a 13-vehicle motorcade took his body on a route leading through small Panhandle towns with picturesque names - Mossy Head, DeFuniak Springs, Ponce de Leon, Cottondale, Mount Pleasant - to the state Capitol in Tallahassee.

His sons, Ed and Bud Chiles, shook hands with some of the more than 100 people who showed up in Century on Wednesday.

"I wanted to give my last respects," said Rachel Pleasant, who was on hand in 1970 when Chiles embarked on his walking campaign. "He was a good man, a good governor for the state of Florida."

The lengthy 1970 hike was partly Chiles' way of compensating for cmpaign contribution limits he imposed on himself at a time when such restrictions were neither the fashion nor the law. He said he would meet the voters instead of spending money to fly over them.

Also turning out to watch the procession were children too young to remember when Chiles was elected governor in 1990, much less when he made his walk from the Alabama line to the Keys.

Chiles was best known for his work on behalf of Florida's children, and many waved goodbye along the route.

An old friend of Chiles, Lynda Keever of St. Petersburg, wore a coonskin hat during the procession, a reference to the 1990 gubernatorial debate during which Chiles warned Bush that the "he-coon walks just before the light of day." The reference implied Chiles was crafty and wise like a raccoon while Bush was a political novice.

It was a gift to her a few years back and she said it came with a reminder of Chiles' humor. The card he sent with the cap said, "From a He-Coon to a She-Coon."