Clarence William Nelson II, better known as Bill Nelson, is an American politician, lawyer, and payload specialist, who served as the US senator from Florida from 2001 to 2019. He was enlisted in the ‘US Army Reserve’ during the Vietnam War, which served as a source of motivation for him to work toward the rights of veterans along with maintaining the importance of logistical supply that military bases need to protect the nation. Apart from being a senator, he became a member of the Florida bar and has the honor of being a part of the ‘Space Shuttle Columbia’ as a payload specialist. He is considered a centrist, a partisan, and a more liberal-than-conservative, moderate ‘Democrat’ who supports same-sex marriages and abortion rights. Moreover, he supports a better education system for Florida and believes it can be attained by a cut in student loans. He believes in affordable health care. He opposes the right to gun ownership. He also believes in the need for the maintenance of the beauty of the state of Florida. Florida is the central hub of space exploration, and he has thus always promoted the idea of proliferation of space research. He supports the elimination of estate taxes, and the protection of the ‘Affordable Care Act.’
Childhood & Early Life
Born in Miami, Florida, on September 29, 1942, Nelson was the sole child of Nannie Merle (née Nelson) and Clarence William Nelson. At the age of 14, following his father’s death due to a heart attack, he took over the responsibility of his family. He then completed his education from ‘Melbourne High School,’ Florida. He grew up in the city with his mother, Nannie, who died due to Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) when he was 24.
Despite hardships, he was committed to academics. He earned his BA degree from the prestigious ‘Yale University’ in 1965 and then earned a law degree from the ‘University of Virginia’ in 1968. Before transferring to ‘Yale,’ he was a member of the ‘Florida Blue Key’ and ‘Beta Theta Pi’ social fraternity at the ‘University of Florida.’
Earning the rank of captain, he was on active duty for the ‘US Army Reserve’ from 1965 to 1971 and also served in the Vietnam War. In 1972, He married Grace Cavert, of Jacksonville, Florida.
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Nelson started his law practice in Melbourne, Florida, in 1970 and worked alongside Governor Reubin Askew as a legal assistant in 1971. He officially stepped into politics when he was elected to the ‘Florida House of Representatives’ in 1972, where he represented Brevard County, Orange County, and Seminole County. He was re-elected in 1974 and 1976.
Nelson was later elected to the ‘US House of Representatives.’ He administered the 9th Congressional District from 1978, after Louis Frey Jr. refrained from opting for a re-election. Following this, he served the 11th Congressional District, consisting of Orange, Osceola, and Indian River counties. He was re-elected in 1982, 1984, 1986, and 1988.
He was unsuccessful in attaining the position of the ‘Governor of Florida’ in 1990, preceding which he had given up his seat in the ‘Congress.’ Later, in 1994, he was appointed as the ‘Treasurer,’ the ‘Insurance Commissioner,’ and the ‘Fire Marshal’ of Florida.
In 2001, after the retirement of ‘Republican’ Connie Mack III, Nelson became the US senator from Florida, attaining 51% votes, following which, he was successfully re-elected in the 2006 and the 2012 elections, with 60% and 55% votes, respectively. He presented himself as a centrist problem-solver, which helped him win the seats in his home state.
He lost to former ‘Republican’ governor Rick Scott by a mere 0.12 percent margin in November 2018.
Following a rigorous training at the ‘Johnson Space Center,’ Houston (Texas), in 1985, he left for the outer space for six days on January 12, 1986, as a payload specialist in the ‘Space Shuttle Columbia STS-61-C,’ where Nelson and his space crew conducted various scientific experiments. This trip was significant because Nelson was the second sitting member of the ‘Congress’ to travel to space and the trip preceded the infamous ‘Challenger Incident.’
He has worked against fraud in consumer affairs and has voted in favor of flood insurance. His bill allowing private space companies to launch more than one rocket in a day in Florida was passed in December 2018. He has also introduced a legislation to reduce student loans by four percent.
Protecting the sanctity of his home state, Florida, he has put in efforts to curb climate change and its effects in the state, leading to more installations of renewable energy resources in the state. He has also guaranteed health care to everyone in the state.
Family & Personal Life
Nelson is a fifth-generation Floridian. He is of Irish, Scottish, Danish, and English descent.
He married his college sweetheart, Grace Cavert, in 1972. The couple has two children: a son named Charles William “Bill Jr.” Nelson and a daughter named Nan Ellen Nelson.
He believes in the Baptist faith and joined the ‘First Presbyterian Church,’ which favors LGBT and abortion rights, in Orlando, in 2005.
Nelson underwent prostate surgery in 2015, after which he was declared cancer-free.
His favorite book is the ‘Bible.’
He enjoys jogging and reading biographies.
He is the first member of the ‘House of Representatives’ and the second sitting member of ‘Congress’ to go into space. He underwent training alongside Senator Jake Garn of Utah.