Grace Cavert Nelson is married to Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. She has been by his side for the entirety of his long political career; they got married during his first campaign for the Florida House. They have two grown children: Bill Jr. and Nan Ellen.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Bill Nelson First Met Grace Calvert in 1971; She Was His College Roommate’s Date to an Event
In 1971, Bill Nelson was asked to speak at a convention in Jacksonville. It was for the Key Club, an organization for which he had previously served as president. He asked his former Yale roommate, Bruce Smathers, to attend as well. He told Smathers to bring a date.
According to Nelson’s profile on the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame website, Smathers brought Grace Calvert as his date. Grace was a native of Jacksonville, Florida and graduated from the University of Georgia.
That night at the convention, sparks flew between her and Nelson. She reportedly told Smathers she was interested in Nelson, and Smathers helped to arrange a date between them.
As the Tampa Bay Times reports, Calvert was head over heels for the young lawyer. After meeting Nelson for the first time, she reportedly told her parents, “”I’ve met the man I’m going to marry.”
2. Grace Cavert Wore Her Mother’s Wedding Dress When She & Bill Nelson Tied the Knot
Grace Cavert and Bill Nelson got married in 1972. Her “something borrowed” was from her mother. Ellen Cavert wore a lacy gown for her own wedding in 1940. Grace decided to wear the same dress.
The gown has been worn by more than a dozen women in the family, according to the Florida Times-Union.
3. Grace Cavert Nelson Was the President of ‘Senate Spouses’
Grace Cavert Nelson may have been as well-known on Capitol Hill as her husband. She made it a habit to meet with lawmakers and their spouses regardless of political party, in an effort to increase bipartisanship. She also met monthly with the wives of ambassadors in order to “build bridges of friendship in a divided world.”
She previously served as President of the Senate Spouses group. The group was founded in 1917 as a way to contribute during World War I. The wives of lawmakers got together to sew bandages and over time expanded their charity efforts. On the Senate website, the group’s description praises the spouses of lawmakers as a “formidable force in American politics, from Abigail Adams and Dolley Madison to Eleanor Roosevelt and Nancy Reagan. Senate spouses continue to play an important role in the Senate of the modern era, not only as partners in Senate families, but also as active, dynamic, and influential actors in the American political system.”
Grace Nelson also formerly served as a board member for the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise. The organization is part of the Aspen Institute, a non-profit think tank based in Wasington, D.C. The organization supports artisan business efforts around the world. Nelson’s bio was from 2013. She is no longer a board member, according to the Alliance’s website.
4. Grace Cavert Nelson Was Active in Planning Prayer Breakfasts
Grace Cavert Nelson has reportedly had a leadership role for the National Prayer Breakfast. In her daughter’s wedding announcement in the New York Times, the newspaper described Grace as having been “an organizer of gatherings for women at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington since 1986.” She reportedly also used to organize the Florida Governor’s Prayer Breakfast as well.
Grace Nelson was quoted in a 2007 article by Mother Jones that had to do with Hillary Clinton’s religious beliefs. The article alleged that Nelson was part of a Capitol Hill group called the “Fellowship.” It was reportedly a Bible study and prayer circle group. According to Mother Jones, Nelson described the Fellowship as a “tight-knit” prayer circle; she added that anyone who believed in “the person of Jesus” was welcome to join the group. The goal of the group was reportedly to promote bipartisanship by reminding lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that they could work together.
5. Grace Cavert Nelson Was Featured in a 1990 Book About How to Throw Successful Parties
Grace Cavert Nelson apparently knows how to throw a good party. She was one of 15 women featured in a 1990 book by novelist Cissie Coy titled “Washington Hostess Cookbook.” It was promoted as a guide of sorts for what makes a dinner party successful or not.
The book featured recipes and centerpiece ideas from 15 women whom the Washington Post described as “social stars.”
Washington Post writer Sarah Booth Conroy attended a launch party for the book in October of 1990. She wrote about how multiple women featured in the book were in attendance. Grace Nelson brought a recipe for chocolate cups filled with key lime curd for the party.