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David Bibb Graves (April 1, 1873–March 14, 1942) was a Democratic politician and the Governor of Alabamamarker 1927-1931 and 1935-1939, the first Alabama governor to serve two four-year terms.

Graves was born in Hope Hull, Alabamamarker, son of David and Mattie Bibb Graves and a descendant of Alabama's first governor William Wyatt Bibb. Graves' father died when he was one-year old, and he was reared first by his paternal grandfather on an Alabama farm and then by an uncle in Texas. Bibb attended the University of Alabamamarker, where he was a member of the school's inaugural football team. After graduating with a degree in civil engineering (1893), Graves earned a degree from Yale Law School (1896). Graves was elected to the Alabama legislature and later served as the city attorney of Montgomery.

As adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard, he helped organize the 1st Alabama Cavalry and served on the Mexican border in 1916. In World War I, Graves commanded the 117th U.S. Field Artillery in France, and upon his return to Alabama, he helped organize the state section of the American Legion.

lost his first campaign for governor in 1922, but four years later, with the secret endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, he was elected to his first term as governor. Almost certainly Graves was the Exalted Cyclops (chapter president) of the Montgomery chapter of the Klan, but it should be noted that both Graves and U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker Justice Hugo Black, another Alabama Klan member, were more opportunists than ideologues, politicians who used the temporary strength of the Klan to further their careers.

As governor, Graves earned a reputation as reformer, abolishing the convict leasing system and raising taxes on public utilities, railroads, and coal and iron companies. The new revenue was used to expand educational and public health facilities, increase teachers' salaries and veterans' pensions, fund an ambitious road-building program, and improve port facilities in Mobilemarker. "To maintain his popularity among the farmers in northern Alabama and the working classes, Graves made good on his commitment to New Deal legislation, winning a reputation as one of the most progressive governors in the South." During his second gubernatorial administration he supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's “court packing” plan and Hugo Black's nomination to the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker. (In 1937, when Black's ties to the Klan were debated in Congress, Graves noted his own previous membership as well.)

Graves made many successful trips to Washington to secure funds for Alabama, which he called "plum tree-shaking expeditions," and President Roosevelt appointed him to a national advisory committee on agriculture and to an interregional highway committee. Graves was a strong opponent of eugenic sterilization, and by 1938, he was on hand to greet the 1200 delegates to the founding session of the Southern Conference on Human Welfare--a fifth of whom were black.

In 1937, when President Franklin Roosevelt named Senator Hugo Black to the U.S. Supreme Court, Graves appointed his own wife, Dixie Bibb Graves, to serve the remainder of Black's term. She thus became Alabama's first woman Senator.

Graves was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and an elder of the Christian Church. He was a founding member of the board of trustees of Bob Jones College (now Bob Jones Universitymarker) and a personal friend of the founder, evangelist Bob Jones, Sr. Bibb Graves died in Sarasota, Floridamarker while preparing for another gubernatorial campaign. Bob Jones Universitymarker has a residence hall named in his honor, the University of West Alabamamarker has a Bibb Graves Hall and a Bibb Graves Auditorium, the University of North Alabamamarker has a Bibb Graves Hall, Auburn Universitymarker has both a Bibb Graves Amphitheatre and a Bibb Graves Drive, the School of Education at the University of Alabamamarker is named for him, and the oldest classroom building at Troy Universitymarker that houses the Sorrell College of Business is named Bibb Graves Hall. The historically black Alabama A&M Universitymarker has a Bibb Graves Auditorium, and the historically black Alabama State Universitymarker has women's dormitory named Bibb Graves Hall. Jacksonville State Universitymarker also has an administrative building named Bibb Graves Hall. A high school in Millerville (Clay Countymarker), Alabama named for Bibb Graves closed in 2003.

References

  1. Glenn Feldman,Politics, Society and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999); Rice, 138.
  2. Dictionary of American Biography (Supplement 3: 318, 1973)
  3. Harry S. Ashmore, Civil Rights and Wrongs (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997)
  • Dictionary of American Biography (Supplement 3: 317-18, 1973)
  • William E. Gilbert, "Bibb Graves as a Progressive, 1927-1930," Alabama Review 10 (1957), 15-30.
  • New York Times, March 15, 1942, 43.
  • Arnold S. Rice, The Ku Klux Klan in American Politics (Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1962)



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