P: This is Julian Pleasants, and I am in Miami Lakes, Florida. It is November 15,
2005. I am with Mr. William A. Graham. Where were you born?
G: I was born in Pennsuco, Florida.
P: As I understand it you were born on a barge.
G: On a houseboat. We built a houseboat on a barge and it was called a houseboat.
P: That was at a time when Pennsuco was at its formative stage, I guess.
G: Yes, I'd say so.
P: Let me ask you a little bit about your family. The oral tradition that I've heard
about is that the Graham family came from Scotland to Massachusetts.
G: I don't think that's correct; I don't know where you heard that. I'm not sure
whether they came from Scotland or England. I was told at one time that they
came from England. They'd apparently left Scotland and came to England, and
then came to Canada, and they came to the United States through Canada into
Michigan through Ontario.
P: They stayed in Ontario. Do you know at all why they came to Canada?
G: I do not know. I had a great Uncle-my middle name is Anson who I was named
after [he] was quite a humorist. My grandmother, who was a Welsh-her name
was Welsh-came from Ontario, too. He used to kid her and say the reason they
left Ontario was because they found somebody else's horses in his barn, her
father's barn. She claimed it was religious persecution, so you can take your
choice of that.
P: Your grandfather was Robert Graham, is that right?
G: No, my grandfather was Phillip Lesley Graham; that's where Phillip Lesley
Graham got his name.
P: Okay. Let's go back to the original family. The family comes to Ontario and then
to Michigan. What happens at that point?
G: Well, my grandfather, I don't know an awful lot about it, but my grandfather grew
up and was a teacher. I guess in those days as now, teachers didn't make a lot
of money. So he left teaching and went into the drygood business. He and
another man established a drygoods store in Croswell, Michigan, a community of
about 2,500-3,000 people, I think. They had a store on the bottom floor and they
sold dry goods, and they later sold groceries, too. Then the second story was
what they called the opera house. They didn't have operas, but they had some
chautauqua [a traveling adult education exhibit featuring lectures, plays, and
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 2
musical performances. Chautauquas flourished in the late nineteenth and
twentieth centuries] and vaudeville [a style of multi-act theater that flourished in
North America from the 1880s to the 1920s] and things would come through
town, so it was kind of the center of the town. Grandfather was active in politics-
he was mayor of the town a couple times, he was on the bank board and he
participated in everything that went on in the community like that.
P: What else did he do? Did they ever start a dairy up there?
G: No, he didn't have a dairy, but he acquired some farms, being on the bank. When
my father, who was an engineer-and he had been a mining engineer in South
Dakota where he met my mother-when World War I came along he joined the
Corp of Engineers. He spent several months in France-he wasn't in combat, but
he actually ran a rock quarry. When he came home from France, the mine he
had operated-he had been the manager of a mine in Terry, South Dakota, in the
Black Hills-the price of gold had dropped so low that they couldn't afford to
operate the mine for the quality of ore that they got out of it. So he came back to
Croswell and he took over these farms that grandfather had acquired and started
producing milk and he was a dairy farmer for a short period. That town still, the
main industry is beet sugar, and it still has a sugar mill there, Pioneer Sugar. The
superintendent of that sugar factory had gotten to know Dad.
P: This is Ernest "Cap" Graham.
G: Ernest R. The R stood for nothing. A lot of people thought it was Robert-it
wasn't. When he went in the Army they had to put something, but it was Earnest
R., he had to have a middle initial. But his brother, Phillip Lesley Graham, both of
them were engineers. Dad was a mining engineer and Lesley was a civil
engineer. Uncle Les was a party boy, and he drank and played poker and stuff,
and he played with this man-I can't think of his name right now, but I'm named
after him. His first name is William, I'll think of it in a bit. He had been the
superintendent of this sugar plant, but he had left there and gone to Philadelphia
and become general manager of the Pennsylvania Sugar Company. The
Pennsylvania Sugar Company was nominated, and the main owner was a man
named George Earle, Sr. Mr. Earle had been impressed with Florida and had
been sold on the idea that Florida was going to be the great sugar producer of
the world, the Everglades. So Mr. Earl had come to Florida and purchased or
leased several hundred thousand acres between Miami and Lake Okeechobee.
They had a manager who Mr. Bill Hoodless-that was the man I'm talking about-
didn't really trust. He asked Dad to come down and make a report because Dad
had engineering background and farming background, and they were doing a lot
of engineering. They were building canals and railroads and all this. Dad came
down and made a report and they asked him to stay and be the manager. This
was either 1921 or 1922, I'm not sure, and that is how we got to Florida.
P: Let me talk a little bit about his background, because he did get his engineering
degree. I understand he went to the Michigan School of Mines.
G: Yes, up in the northern peninsula.
P: And his brother Les went to Michigan State?
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 3
G: Yeah. Dad started at what Michigan State was then called, Michigan Agricultural.
Dad started there and went there two years and then transferred to the Michigan
School of Mines in Houghton.
P: And he had always intended, at that point, to have an engineering career?
G: I gather. I have no idea, but he probably wanted to be a mining engineer. There
was nothing in his background at Croswell that would make him want to do that,
but he did. I'll tell you one little story. When he was in college, my grandfather
and several other men put up $10 each and financed him to go prospecting up in
northern Canada up around Hudson Bay, and he was accompanied by a guide
that he called Indian Joe. All my life I grew up hearing stories about Indian Joe
when they were up prospecting in Hudson Bay. The investors didn't get any
return on their money, but everybody had a lot of fun out of it I think more than
P: They had some good stories anyway.
P: Now when he was in Deadwood, South Dakota, I guess, how successful ....
G: He wasn't in Deadwood, he was at Terry, and the closest town is Lead.
Deadwood was always kind of the party town and the wild town; Lead is the
working town, that's the head of the Homestake Mining even now. But Terry is
still mining gold; we were out there two or three years ago and they were ripping
that thing up getting gold out of it now. They've got a process they can recover
P: Was the mine successful? He was there what, four or five years, I guess?
G: Well, I'm not sure, but something like that. I gather it was successful. He worked
for a man named John Dorr, and Mr. Dorr was an interesting man. He was an
inventor, but he did a lot of work in mining equipment and also in equipment that
cities use for purifying water. His company was listed on the New York Stock
Exchange and he was a very well educated man. He would get a mine like this
and he would find somebody to be a manager and pretty well let them run it. He
came in and checked occasionally, but he didn't interfere at all with what they
were doing. He used to come visit us even after Dad was in south Florida, and
Mr. Dorr was the kind of man when he came to visit you he brought two
suitcases-one had clothes and one had books. He had actually worked in
Edison's lab, and he told me that Thomas Edison didn't think you should ever
sleep over four hours, so they had cots in there and took naps. He was quite a
He did another little interesting thing. You know the white lines you see on the
right side of highways? Well, Mr. Dorr had a home in Connecticut-his office was
in Wall Street, but he would go home on the weekends-and many times there
was bad fog and they had trouble seeing the highway. He got the idea of putting
lines down there and he went to the state of Connecticut and got them to allow
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 4
one of his foundations to put lines on certain roads and it just caught on. It's a
wonderful thing if you've ever driven in fog. It's a lifesaver. He's the man who was
responsible for that.
P: That's great. Now your Dad, in South Dakota, met his wife Florence, is that
G: Yes, my mother.
P: How did that come about?
G: Well, I'm not sure. She was a schoolteacher there. My mother, I know practically
nothing about her family, was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. But there was kind of a
migration of people out to the West, particularly the mining areas where there
were jobs and stuff. I don't know anything about her father, and I guess he must
have been a black sheep because I just never heard anything. But she only had
eleven grades of official education, but she was a high school teacher out in
Terry. She'd ride a horse to school every day. I've got some pictures of her and
she was a great horse lady. She was a wonderful person, and everybody said
P: They had two children right away, that would have been ....
G: Yes, in Terry, South Dakota, Mary and Phil.
P: Mary and Phillip, right. How long did they stay in South Dakota at that point?
They would have gotten married what, 1912 or something?
G: I think 1912 or 1914, something like that. But then he went in the service in 1916
or 1917, so it wasn't very long that they were in South Dakota. Now he had been
out there and worked some before that.
P: Now what happened, did he join the service or was he drafted?
G: No, he joined. He got a commission. He was a captain in the Corps of Engineers.
That's where he coined the name Captain. All his life he was known as Cap
because it was Captain. The troops called him that and it just caught on with his
P: I have him in the 309th Engineers.
G: That could be, that sounds about right.
P: He was over there, I would imagine, not more than one year.
G: I think it was probably less than one year, but it was at least eight or nine months.
P: What was his specific job?
G: He was running a rock quarry and using German prisoners. He had a little stone
that they made and gave him-I think Bob may still have it-but these prisoners
made for him.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 5
P: What were they using the quarry for?
G: I have no idea. I guess to build roads and stuff because it was a rock quarry. Dad
was not a tremendous athlete himself, although he was a distance runner at
Michigan State, but he believed in athletics and he had a real good boxing team
and a football team over there and he recruited guys for that. He liked that sort of
thing, and he loved to play hockey. Up at Houghton they played; I don't think they
had any rules, they just played.
P: It sounds like he was a good organizer always.
G: He was a good organizer, and he was a very organized person. When he went to
college he had practically every minute of his day organized. So much time for
studying this, so much for that, so much for recreation. He was a very organized
P: Now when he came to Pennsuco, did he intend to stay or was this just a
G: He came to make this report that they'd asked of him, but he didn't have the
greatest thing going for him at Michigan. It was trying to produce milk and this
was in the period of time when prices were bad. He'd actually helped to organize
the farmers a little bit, but that was not his cup of tea really. So when he came
down and they offered a job to come here and be the manager of it, he took it.
P: What was Pennsuco like when he would have come? I mean, the difficulty of
even getting there ....
G: It was pretty primitive. There was a road that got you there. You came out of
Miami on what's now U.S. 27, but it was just a road. I'm not sure whether it was
hard surfaced then or not because many weren't at that time, but it became hard
surfaced shortly after that if it wasn't, and if it wasn't it was a rock road then.
P: What was Miami like at that time?
G: Of course I don't know from actual experience because I was too young to
remember it. The first thing I remember of Miami was we thought it was the big
city-it wasn't a big city, but we thought it was. Of course it was the largest city in
Florida for years and the rest of Florida resented Miami. Politically, you were
really in a handicap when you came out of Miami. It was a booming city, of
course, and of course the boom broke in 1926. But during the early 1920s, that
was when George Merrick was developing Coral Gables and Glenn Curtis and
Jimmy Bright were developing Hialeah and Opalocka and Miami Springs.
P: And Carl Fisher.
G: Fisher was doing the beach. All those things were going on and the railroad had
come. I don't know when they built the railroad to Key West. Do you know what
the date of that would have been?
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 6
P: I don't. Flagler built that.
G: Yes. That was quite a thing when you think about it to have the nerve to do that.
P: Well, there was nobody out there. The same thing with Fisher out there with a
bunch of cypress stumps. I guess George Merrick more than anything ....
G: One interesting connection you might be interested in, the man who was our site
planner for Miami Lakes was a man named Lester Collins; he's dead now. His
grandfather was the Collins of Miami Beach, and his grandfather bought Miami
Beach for a farm. His grandfather was a New Jersey farmer-he was on the board
of directors at Rutgers, he was an intelligent man-but he bought Miami Beach as
a farm to grow coconuts and avocados, and then I guess sold it to Fisher down
P: I notice David Merrick did a really good job of publicizing Coral Gables and
G: George Merrick.
P: George, I'm sorry; David Merrick is a playwright.
P: Anyway, he opened up the whole area because he advertised with elephants and
G: He was a tremendous promoter, of course.
P: But most of that was pretty much alien from what was going on in Pennsuco?
G: Yeah, Pennsuco was strictly trying to be, at that time, a sugar plantation. They
were building canals and putting railroads down and they built a big sugar mill. All
that was going on in Pennsuco at that time.
P: You lived on the houseboat for a while, but then your father built a large rock
G: What happened, when my mother got pregnant, she told my Dad that we were
either going to build a house or she was going back north. So I was born in
February 1924, and we moved in the house that summer of 1924.
P: Describe the house.
G: It's a coral rock house. I don't like to go there anymore because I remember it
differently than it is now, but it was a great house for me to grow up in. It had a
big L-shaped porch around the front of it that was screened in. The rooms, as
houses were in that day, were small, whenever I go see them now. It didn't have
a lot of bathrooms like you do today; we had one bathroom and then one half
bathroom. I guess we had four bedrooms and a sleeping porch, and of course,
no air conditioning or anything like that. The downstairs was the living room and
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 7
the dining room and a kitchen, with a little back place where we kept our boots
and stuff and we had an icebox-we didn't have a refrigerator of course, it was an
icebox. But it was a great place to grow up.
P: Did he design the house? Who built the house?
G: I don't know who designed it. He supervised the building of it, he brought the
stone mason down from Michigan, and the walls are fourteen inches thick or
something. They are really thick.
P: But they would have to be.
G: It's a substantial house, although they say it's falling down now, it may be. The
building was in 1924, so it's getting kind of old.
P: One of the problems that I've heard you mention before was obviously you get a
lot of rain down there and hurricanes and there was always this problem with
flooding. How did he deal with that particular problem in the house?
G: Well, at first they had dormer windows on the house and they kept blowing the
roof off, so he took the dormer windows out of it. Then when a hurricane would
come he would prepare for it. It was about the only substantial building in
Pennsuco, so many of the families came, he brought them into the house. In the
dining room he dropped the light fixture by the ceiling down and he cut a hole
about two feet square. Then he went right under that-he had moved all the
furniture and put it up on blocks or something-and then right under that he cut a
place back. Then he took men with brooms and they just pushed the water right
through, so it didn't hurt anything, it was just going through the house all the time
all this rain. It was just packed with people and everybody sweeping the water
out. I can remember a little bit of that, [at least] I think I do, maybe it's just that
people have told me.
P: You've heard the story so many times.
G: Sometimes you don't know.
P: Describe your early childhood. I understand you were out fishing and dealing with
alligators and all kinds of wildlife.
G: Yes, we had a wonderful childhood. One of the things, my mother and my father
were both great horse people, so I grew up with horses. Some of my earliest
memories, in fact my earliest memories of my mother was with a pony. One
Sunday they had given me a new pony. She had it on a lead rope and something
spooked him and he reared back and pulled that rope through her hand and just
burned it terrifically. I can remember her just wrapping a handkerchief around her
hand and then that afternoon we went to a horseshow or a rodeo or something
over on Miami Beach. But we always had a lot of horses and ponies and this kind
of thing, so we did a lot of that kind of thing. But then also there was all kinds of
wildlife. At different stages of my life we caught coons and possums, and we
actually went where we were catching cottonmouth moccasins and water snakes.
We had a whole zoo of snakes and stuff. How we didn't get killed, I don't know.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 8
P: Cottonmouths are aggressive snakes.
G: Of course we did a lot of fishing; we fished for bass and bream and largemouth
bass. Then there were landlocked tarpon up in those canals that had gotten up in
there and couldn't get out, and some of them got pretty good size, and they were
fun to fish for. I don't think I ever landed one, but I hooked a lot of them.
P: Did you do any hunting?
G: Yes, out there we hunted ducks and snipe. On the east end, up in Miami Lakes
area, we had a lot of dove hunting. We had some wonderful dove hunts up there.
P: Did you have much interaction with the Seminoles at all during this time?
G: No. Back when I was a little tiny child they said the Seminoles used to come
down the canal occasionally, but by the time I got big enough to remember, the
Seminoles had gone further [south].
P: One description of your mother that I read, and I think this was Katharine
Graham, Kay Graham, Phillip's wife, said she was intelligent, independent,
charming, and strong, loved and admired by everybody who knew her.
G: Well, now Kay couldn't have known my mother.
G: Was that Bob's mother or my mother? If that's Kay it wouldn't have been my
P: No, who was known as Floss?
G: That was my mother.
G: That's what people told her then.
P: That's what people told her. That was in her book.
G: She was, and she was quite a leader. In my house I don't think there was ever a
Sunday dinner we didn't have guests there, business leaders, political people, all
kinds of people. She was always encouraging us to read and do things. But she
really was very popular in Miami and very strong. At times my Dad would be
impetuous about things and she would calm him down. One time Phil, I forget
what he did, he had an accident-we lived so far [out] in the country we had to
drive to the high school, there wasn't any bus service or anything-and he had an
accident or something. She learned about it and he and some of his high school
buddies-George Smathers [U.S. Senator from Florida, 1951-1969; U.S.
Representative from Florida, 1947-1951] and people like that-had built a hunting
house out what we called out back, on the back end of the plantation two or three
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 9
miles from where we lived. He came home and she said, Phil, you're going out
there, stay out there over the weekend I'll calm your father down because Dad
was that kind of person. He could be pretty volatile at times.
P: What kind of car did you have?
G: I can't remember. Now he used to get, when he worked for the sugar company,
he got a new Buick every year. We'd go to Michigan where his mother lived, and
frankly I spent a lot of time with grandmother, and one of the big events was to
go over to Flint to pick that Buick up. Frequently he wouldn't drive us home, he'd
hire somebody to do it, a young man or something.
P: Well, in the early days, I guess, when they were starting the sugar business, they
would have mills. But he, as I understand it, was a real believer in machinery and
before long they got into tractors and ...
G: Yes, there's a pretty good story about that he used to tell me. They were plowing
it with mules and it was very slow and very costly and everything. At that time the
forerunner of the Caterpillar tractor, which was the Holt tractor, came out,
because wheel tractors just couldn't work on the muck, they'd just disappear in
the muck. So he ordered, I think, ten of them and they shipped them down here.
The foreman in charge of it was running the mules, and he took over the tractors,
but he didn't like tractors, he was a mule man. By noon he had all the tractors
stuck and he very happily came to Dad and said, Cap, those damn tractors aren't
going to work on this muck. Dad went to a young foreman that came down with
the tractors and said, can you work those tractors? Yes sir, Cap. He fired the
mule man and turned it over to the tractor man. He always told me, don't put a
mule man driving tractors, it won't work. In other words, he was fine with mules,
but he wasn't any good for tractors.
P: I guess all these technological changes are difficult for anybody who had not had
the proper training.
G: I think so, that's right.
P: Why wasn't the sugar industry successful?
G: Well, I think it's a complex answer, but it was a combination of things. One,
Pennsuco has relatively shallow muck. You go up around Lake Okeechobee
where the muck is twelve or fifteen feet, and you know there's a shrinkage
anyway that's going on, but at Pennsuco it was only three to five feet deep, and
as it shrank it got lower and lower and at places you could see the foundations
and two or three feet of shrinkage is just going on. Secondly, they had the floods,
and thirdly, we had frost, and when all those things put together it just didn't
P: Would it have worked if you had moved to the center part of the state? Obviously
the sugar industry is centered there.
G: I assume it would have worked up in Lake Okeechobee. Actually the mill was
moved up to Clewiston. It started as the beginning of the U.S. Sugar Company
mill. They barged it up there.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 10
P: Now once it was clear that the sugar business was not going to work, Pennsuco
pulled out. What happened at that point?
G: No, Pennsuco didn't pull out. The Pennsylvania Sugar Company, which is what
you call Pennsuco, they went into large scale truck farming. For several years-I
think they quit growing sugar in 1926-and from then until 1932 they grew
potatoes, beans, tomatoes, and they actually had a little canning factory and they
canned some of those things. We've got some labels in my office I can show you
from when they canned it. They did that until 1932, and of course in 1932,
everything in this country was a disaster. Mr. Hoodless called my Dad in, they
were good friends, and he said, we just can't keep going and we're going to close
this thing down. We can't pay you anymore but you can use our assets, because
nobody would pay the taxes on the land or anything. They had had a dairy farm
there to produce milk for the employees, because at one time they had 1,000-
2,000 employees, so Dad saw this dairy farm as an opportunity to earn a living to
feed his family because he had dairy farmed some in Michigan. He made a deal
with a man in Miami, Mr. Marshburn, who had a small chain of grocery stores, to
supply him milk. At that time milk was priced that if you got home delivery, it was
the same price you paid when you went to the store and bought it. They made a
deal that they would sell it for two cents under the home delivery price. Well, that
created a little havoc in the milk business immediately, so immediately they had a
milk war and all kind of turmoil went on, but that settled down eventually, and
that's how he got started in the milk business.
P: What were the assets when he took them over other than the dairy farm?
G: The land, and then there were some buildings. They had, really, shacks or
homes where the help lived. We had quite a bit of housing activity going on in our
P: There was a pump station you mentioned.
G: There was a big pump station that pumped this water in and out. It wasn't used
that much in the dairy-they tried it a little bit, but it really wasn't worth doing it.
That's how we got Miami Lakes to build up this land up here. This was high land.
What we would do with the dairy, we would milk the cows here until the floods
came in the summer, then we would put them on the road on 138th Street and
walk them up. And as each barn would milk seventy-five cows, we put a man in
front of them and a man behind them. We'd milk them at Pennsuco in the
morning and up here in the afternoon and evening; we'd have five or six of those
herds come by.
P: How long did it take to get back and forth?
G: How many hours?
G: I was trying to remember. I think it would take us two or three hours to walk them
up here, each one. When I came back, I can remember running around in the
jeep making sure they were all right. Of course, it was a little road with no traffic
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 11
on it, a little rock road, and we just took it over. When we dedicated 1-75, it now
ends right here at Miami Lakes, and when we dedicated it Bob was governor.
When he did a little dedication he said it was wonderful, but it was killing his cow
P: How many cows did you have at that point?
G: I can't be exact, but we probably milked 300 or 400.
P: That's a pretty good sized herd.
G: Yes. It may not have been that many, but it was pretty close. Of course, at the
beginning we milked them all by hand, and a man would milk thirty-five cows
twice a day, and it took him about five hours to milk them. So he worked about
ten hours but then he had to change too, so he really didn't have any life at all. I
mean it was a terrible business and a lot of them were alcoholics and stuff.
P: How many acres in all would Cap Graham have taken over?
G: Well, that's a good question. I was thinking about that last night. When Phil got
out of law school, out of Harvard Law School, the first thing he did was secure
the title to some of this land, and at that time Dad was claiming about 15,000
acres. But in order to clear the title they had to give up more than half of that, and
then they got the other [half]. I think Dad ended up with about 5,000 acres
including from here all the way to Pennsuco.
P: The figure I have here is 7,000.
G: That could have been, but I think that's a little high, but it could be. Incidentally,
when the sugar company bought this land, they bought it in the checkerboard
fashion. The Tatum brothers sold it to them with the idea that they would sell
them this section, they'd skip this one, and then they'd sell them this one-the
idea being the sugar company would improve these sections and make these
other sections more valuable, and that was their theory of doing that
P: Now, somewhere I have a description that you gave about working on a dairy
farm. They were paid twenty cents an hour for a ten-hour day. We worked a
seven day week in the dairy, no days off, no vacations.
G: That's all very true.
P: We'd feed the cows early on Sunday so we could get off early Sunday afternoon.
This must have been a pretty hard life.
G: Well, it was a hard life for everybody. We had a Rhodes scholar working for us,
we had several people with college educations and stuff, and they were standing
in line to get those jobs.
P: Any job was a good job.
G: It's hard for people today to have any understanding what the Depression was
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 12
P: It would have been much more difficult in some of these rural areas because
there weren't many options, were there?
G: No. When we were in Albany, Georgia, we got a farm, and when Dad bought that
farm inl952 or 1953, the first farm up there, there were people living there just
out of some of those little shacks that didn't have anything, even then, and that's
after things turned around a lot. It had to be terrible in the 1930s.
P: Describe what the condition of the Graham family was in the early 1930s, and did
that change much toward the end of the decade? In 1932 you would have been
just eight years old, you would have been just a young kid, so you would have
sort of grown up in that Depression. I would assume at the beginning of that time
your family was not very well off.
G: They were struggling. In fact, I remember when I was five or six years old I
wanted a rail electric train system-it had just a little circular train that went around
like that. I just happened to overhear my mother and father talking about how
they couldn't afford to buy that and everything. Now, that's not a very significant
thing, but still. Then one year Phil was kept out of school and had to work on the
dairy because they couldn't afford to let him go to the University of Florida, which
as we talked about last night, didn't cost much back then, but nobody had any
money either. It was a pretty tough time, but we did very well actually. I mean, if
everybody had done as well as we had, there wouldn't have been nearly as
many problems. My mother did something that I've always been very proud of.
She wanted every child that was on our farm to have a Christmas present, and
she would raise turkeys. She would get the old rebate milk, the milk that came
back off the routes that couldn't be sold, and she'd raise turkeys right in our
backyard on Pennsuco. Then on Thanksgiving she would clean those turkeys
and sell them to two or three of the grocery stores that we sold milk to, and she
took that money and went to Freeman's Dime Store in Hialeah and they would
give her a night when nobody else was in the store but her, and she'd buy
presents. Now the presents cost a nickel, a dime, fifteen cents or something like
that, but every child [got a gift]. Originally she would go around on Christmas Eve
to the homes, the little old shacks, and give them these presents. I remember
going around with her as a little tiny guy. That evolved into a party we had on
Christmas, and we still gave every farm employee's child some kind of present.
Now we have it at Moorehaven and it's now completely Hispanic and they have
these things where you knock the pinatas. It's a whole different environment, but
it's still that same principle, and my mother really started that back in the 1930s.
P: That's a great tradition.
G: It was a nice thing she did. She was that kind of person though.
P: Now, as your father is dealing with the dairy farm, he's going to start becoming
more of an entrepreneur, and as I understand he started getting into beef cattle.
G: Well, the way we got into the beef cattle business, I had a role in that, and it was
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 13
a little later than that. When I was fifteen or sixteen-and at that time we were
riding horses and playing with horses and our big event of the week was to go to
the Hialeah theater on Saturday night and see Tom Mix [Hollywood star of
cowboy films] and one of the cowboys, so we were cowboys. When the sugar
company had been there, they had purchased some old native beef cattle to get
manure for fertilizer. They had a whole study of how to grow cane in the glades
and they were using manure to fertilize. They'd bought these old native Florida
cattle, and when they left they were just abandoned and they were just running
wild out in the glades. We had bulls that had never been castrated that were ten
or twelve years old, horns on some of them like this and everything. I talked my
Dad into hiring a cowboy to let us catch those things, and we caught them and
cut the horns off and castrated them and Dad bought two Angus bulls at
Michigan State and we put two black bulls on them. Now this would have been in
the late 1930s, and in fact it became known as my herd because I did that. That's
how I really got into the cow thing, and that's how we got started in the Angus
P: Was that pretty successful?
G: It didn't make any money, but it was fun. It did not contribute much to our
enterprise, I'll put it that way.
P: Talk a little bit about your early schooling.
G: You know there are a lot of things other than money in life. I've met an awful lot
of people in the cattle business, and an awful lot of them own tremendous assets
and don't live very well because they don't have much money, but they love the
way they live. You know what I'm trying to say? There are a lot of ways to live,
and some people catch onto that and some people never catch onto that their
P: Some people have a lot of money and are not happy at all.
G: They are just miserable, yes.
P: Talk a little bit about your early schooling, because due to the flooding, often
you'd have to switch schools?
G: Yes. Whenever we had a big flood we'd move to town, and in 1929 we had a big
flood-that was a big hurricane flood deal. I was only what, four or five years old,
but Mary and Phil were the seniors at Miami Senior High School in Miami, so
mother rented a house a few blocks from the high school, so we all moved in.
The closest elementary school was Citrus Grove Elementary, so I went to
kindergarten at Citrus Grove. Phil was a year behind Mary, so he had another
year. He still went to Miami High but he drove over there. They left me at Citrus
Grove to go to the first grade, so I went to first grade at Citrus Grove and then I
came back to Hialeah and went to Hialeah School until the fifth grade. In fifth
grade they had another big flood, in 1935, and my sister-my mother was dead
then-was looking after me. We rented an apartment up in the northwest section
of town where she had some friends and our lead lawyer lived, who was very
close to us, and I went to Shadowlawn Elementary in the fifth grade. That was
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 14
the last of my moves, but Bob, in 1947 we had a flood, and they sent him to
school up at grandmother's in Michigan.
P: How did you deal with all this flooding? I know you had cut some canals-that
would have been a difficult problem year after year.
G: It was difficult, and that's why this Miami Lakes land-we called it the sand farm
because it's sandy land-this was a lifesaver because the cattle then would be
moved up on the sand farm. The land where we are right here is sandy, but just
west of us we get into mucky land.
P: Now you go on and eventually, like your brother and sister, go to Miami Senior
High. You graduated in 1942 I believe, what was it like during that period of time?
At one point it was by far and away the best high school in the state.
G: Well, I still think it was the best high school then. It was an excellent high school
really, for a public high school. I really couldn't have any complaints with it. I had
a great time, played basketball there; I was on the state championship basketball
team, and that was fun. I was not a very good player, but we had some excellent
players. My whole experience there was really wonderful, and I had good
teachers. I can remember some of them to this day. I had a mathematics teacher
that was wonderful, I had an English teacher that was wonderful, a physics
teacher that was good. I hear things about schools now and I cringe when I think
P: Did those teachers have much of an impact on your life, your way of thinking
G: I think they definitely did.
P: Now at that point, in 1942, what were your personal plans? What did you intend
to do at that point? Obviously World War II is a factor.
G: That was the only thing I knew that I was going to do. Dad wanted me to be an
engineer, and I always liked mathematics, so that was something that was
certainly a possibility that I would have done. When I got out of high school in
1942, I wanted to join the Army Air Corps. My sister had gone with a fellow who
was a pilot in the Army Air Corps, and we had gone out west in the 1930s and
visited him at Barksdale Field in Shreveport, Louisiana, and he took me out on
the flight line and all these planes and stuff, and these guys in these uniforms.
The next day we were driving west toward Dallas and a three plane formation
comes over and buzzes us, and I was all Army Air Corps. Dad didn't want me to
go without going to college one semester because he was scared to death I'd
never go to college if I didn't. So I had to agree to go to college one semester
and then I'd go in the service, and that's what I did, I went in very early in March
P: Now let me go back and talk a little bit about your memories of your mother.
Obviously you were ten when she died in 1934, and she died, I think, of breast
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 15
G: She had breast cancer, but she didn't die of the cancer, she died in the
operation. I think today she'd have never had a problem, but back then it was
much more primitive.
P: What are your fondest memories of her?
G: It's really general memories. I mean, I had a very close relationship with her and
she was always a very warm lady and we traveled quite a bit and we did things
together. Not just us, but with Mary and with Phil and the family. As I told you,
she always had dinner parties with people and she really encouraged us to read
and all this kind of thing.
P: So at this point I guess Mary and Phillip would have taken over part of the
responsibility of making sure you ...
G: Yes, Mary mainly, but Phil still to some degree.
P: What was your relationship with them?
G: Very close, extremely close. Phil was always like a part father to me. See, my
Dad was much older; I was not expected. I was an unintended child because I
was born ten years after they were born. Really, Phil, in some ways, was father
to me partly as well as just being brother.
P: Then your father is going to remarry. Was part of that because he needed
somebody to help him take care of you and run the farm?
G: I think he just needed somebody. I think he's one of those men that needed a
P: He was consistent because he marries another school teacher.
G: That's right.
P: This is Hilda Elizabeth Simmons.
G: That's right.
P: What was your reaction to her coming in the family?
G: Very good. Hilda and I got along very well, always did, and in fact we were very
close. She was always very decent to me and I really enjoyed Hilda. You hear all
the stories about stepmothers, but that was definitely not her case.
P: It would have been difficult for her, certainly.
G: It was particularly, and she was much younger than my father. She was not much
older than my sister, and my sister resented it. Phil resented it a little bit, but my
sister particularly did not take to Hilda real gently.
P: Well, at this point, I recall a description of your father, and I can't remember the
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 16
details, think this is Bob's description of him but I could be wrong-gruff, hard
charging, and except for his temper, he didn't show a lot of emotion.
G: I guess in general that's true, although Dad, like so many people, had a side to
him that was not like that. One of the things, if he had somebody that had some
kind of dispute with him or something, if they would sit down and talk with him
they could usually talk him into anything they wanted him to. He didn't like people
who would run from him. He'd scare some people because he was gruff, but if
they'd come right back at him they'd end up being friends. He did that in politics; I
mean, he had certain politicians that he had conflicts with.
P: Bob says your father Cap Graham was very ethical, moral, but not formally
G: That's correct.
P: Did you have much religion in the house as you were coming up? Was your
G: She was more religious than Dad was. My religious [background] was kind of
strange really. My mother-and I'm not even clear why-for a while we went to the
Christian Science Church when I was just a tiny guy because I can just
remember going. I can remember standing on Biscayne Boulevard; it's still a
great big building. Then after my mother died there was a family at Pennsuco
who the man had started working with my father in South Dakota, and their family
is still working with us, [the] Toms family, and they went to the Episcopal Church.
For some reason I went to the Episcopal Church with them and I was christened
in the Episcopal Church and I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church and I was
an altar boy in the Episcopal Church. Then when I got in high school and the
Army, I kind of got out of it. Then after the war, my family, my wife and I, we went
to the Presbyterian Church for a little while, and then we kind of got non-churchy
P: What was your reaction to the birth of your brother Bob in 1936?
G: Well, I cannot say that I was anxiously awaiting a young brother to play with, and
I was pretty disappointed when I saw what I got, you know, a little ol' thing like
this. But I don't remember having much reaction to Bob, to be honest with you, it
was just an event. But Bob and I always had a good relationship. I'm twelve
years and eight or nine months older than Bob, and I have even more [years]
than Phil had with me, so we have a mixed relationship, too.
P: It's interesting that the difference between the first two siblings is about ten years,
and then you and Bob have a twelve-year difference.
G: Phillip said when he was at Harvard Law School taking a course in wills and
estates, they commented that very few families have a twenty-one year span
between them, and if there was anybody in the class [to raise their hand], and he
was the only one in the class that had twenty-one years.
P: Now let's talk about your military experience. You decided that you would go in
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 17
the service after one year at the University of Florida?
G: One semester.
P: One semester, sorry. What was your goal at that point? You wanted to be in what
was then called the Army Air Corps.
G: I wanted to be in the Army Air Corps. When I, after that semester got over, the
government had decided that rather than you enlisting in different branches,
everybody had to go through the Selective Service Program. They told us that
once we got to Camp Blanding up at Starke, that there I could go in the Air
Corps. Well, I went down and volunteered at the Selective Service and they put
me at the top of the list and put me on the next draft bus. When I got up here
they had never heard of that, so they sent me to Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and
I went and took infantry training. I was there from March to July or August. While
I was there, there was an Army, and I don't understand how this worked, but
there was an Army Air Corps recruiting office down on Main Street. I went and
visited with the sergeant and he said I could join the Air Corps even though I was
in the Army. So I came and took the test and I took the physical. The day we took
the mental test we were out on a firing range and I had to go to my platoon
leader, the lieutenant, and ask him to let me go because I had to go back to the
barracks and change clothes and catch a bus and get there at a certain time. The
infantry officers didn't much like Air Corps anyway, but he was a very decent guy
and he let me. I had to run four miles, I think, to get back, change clothes, and
went down and took the test and passed, passed the physical. So when we
finished infantry training, I was then transferred to the Air Corps, and they sent
me to Miami Beach of all places, and in Miami Beach they ran me through Air
Corps basic, which was a joke compared to what we did in the infantry. In fact,
we knew more about any of it than the cadre dudes, the guys teaching us.
Then after we did that they sent me to the University of Minnesota for what
they called college training, and I did that for two or three or four months, and
that's where I met Pat. Then they sent me to Santa Anna, California, to be
classified. By then they had more pilots than they wanted, and if you passed a
test at a certain level they put you in Navigation School, if you didn't they sent
you to Bombardier School. So then they sent me to Navigation School in Hondo,
Texas. I don't know if you've ever been to Hondo, but it's a godforsaken piece of
the world. I tell my wife that's why I got engaged. After Hondo, I got my
commission and my wings. They sent me to Boca Raton and I took radar training
at Boca Raton. I lived in a Boca Raton club, which was the greatest BOQ
[Bachelor Officer's Quarters] I ever lived in.
P: It doesn't get much better than that.
G: One exciting thing that happened to me, I was in a B-17 crash. We were training
in B-17s, and we had this pilot who had come back from Italy. He'd done his
missions and come back, and he was an operations officer, but you had to get
four hours a month in to get your flight pay, and flight pay was half your base pay
for hazardous duty. So this guy was flying us. We'd leave about five o'clock in the
afternoon and then fly for five hours. We had five young officers on board and
each one of us would all run a radar, but each one of us would guide the plane
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 18
for an hour, then we'd change and then we'd just monitor. I'd been coming to
Miami practically every night to see Pat and I'd get back at two or three o'clock in
the morning, so I was sleepy. I went to the sergeant instructor and asked him if I
could run the set first and get it out of the way, then I monitored for a couple
hours then went back in the back and I took some parachutes and made a bed. I
was sleeping when I felt this big jolt, and I thought the guy's gear had collapsed,
but what he'd done, he'd forgotten to reset his altimeter. It was dark out west of
Boca Raton, you couldn't see a thing, and he lost about fifteen or twenty feet of
the left wing in a pine tree, but he had enough good reaction to put it in the good
altitude. They took us up the next day and flew us over it and it looked like a
mower had gone through those pine trees. The airplane had completely burned
up, the engines melted down; the only thing left was the fin and the door we got
out in the back, and nobody was hurt.
P: I guess that woke you up pretty quickly.
G: It woke us up, but that was just another day in the Air Corps.
[End of Tape A, Side 1.]
P: Now after your B-17 crashed, what happened in your military career after that
G: Then after Radar School they sent me to Lincoln, Nebraska, for an assignment,
and then they sent me to Alamagordo, New Mexico. It's kind of an interesting
story there. In those days, I don't know what they do now, when they gave you a
delay in route, they would give you so many days depending upon your method
of transportation. If you went by car you got eight days going to Lincoln, if you
went by train you got three days; nobody flew. I went by train, and being an
honest guy I checked in early. About 15-20 percent of us came in in three days,
and the rest of them took the whole eight days; nobody's checking up on them or
anything. So we're there, and as they're coming in, we're going out, we're getting
shipped out to Alamagordo. They're giving us all these cat calls and giving us a
hard time, saying, you'll be sorry. We go down to Alamaaordo and we train a little
while, and we organized the last wing of B-29s, the 316t bomb wing. These
other guys that had been up at Lincoln and came in after the extra five days [of
travel], they came in to Alamagordo and pushed us back. They were trained and
sent over as replacement crews, and we're still training. Then they sent us up to
Kansas to train some more, and then we had a training base at Havana, Cuba,
for awhile, and then they sent me out to Victorville, California, to take some more
radar, so we're training like mad. By the time I go overseas and we get to Guam
and I go out and have lunch with my buddy, he's got twenty-seven missions and
he's been flying for those five days. I never let him get over that either, I gave him
a hard time.
P: It's amazing, if you think about that lieutenant that allowed you to get out of the
infantry to go into the Air Force. I mean, you could have ended up in D-day, who
G: And when I got through with infantry training, I had several alternatives. I could
go to officer candidate school, because as I told you last night, there were very
few educated people in that infantry group-a third or more of them were illiterate,
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 19
and then the rest of them had very little education, so if you had any education
you kind of stood out. But I could have gone to officer candidate school, I got the
Air Corps thing, I could have gone to ASTP. Do you know what ASTP was? That
was the Army Special Training Program. Somebody in Washington decided if this
war lasted ten years, we needed some people that were educated, so they were
sending kids to college. Those kids got called out at Battle of the Bulge and they
were thrown in green and an awful lot of them got slaughtered. They were some
real fine people too.
P: While in the military, you got to see the whole country, didn't you?
G: Oh man, I went round and round.
P: Was it a little frustrating in that, I've heard people say that every time they
thought they were about ready to get a mission, they'd go to more training or they
would go a different place. They never quite had enough training.
G: It was frustrating, but you know when you're eighteen, nineteen, twenty years
old, it's pretty exciting too. I mean, we just did what they told us and that was it.
I've thought about this quite a bit; I don't remember anybody really griping-they
would gripe about all kind of stuff-but I mean any serious griping. We had one
kid over in Okinawa who was a lieutenant, actually a co-pilot, and he had a
mental breakdown, but that's the only one I knew.
P: When did you get to Guam?
G: They had just dropped the atom bombs. I was either in Guam or en route to
Okinawa, one of the two, and I don't know which is was to be honest with you,
but I was right there when all that was going on. Then I was in Okinawa when
they had the peace treaty [September 2, 1945]. I spent a year over there with
some time in Tinian and some time in Manila, but our home base was Okinawa.
P: So you never actually got into any combat.
G: Never had any combat, no.
P: What's your view on the dropping of the atomic bombs? Was it justified?
G: I didn't have any question about it. When I got to Okinawa, there was a soldier
under every tree-you could see what we were getting ready to do. A lot of people
forget this, but in October of that year, which they were going to invade in
November, but in October of that year we had what they say is the strongest
typhoon they'd had in fifty years. If that fleet had been out there on the ocean in
that typhoon, God only knows what would have been done to us. The Navy lost
125 ships in that typhoon in Okinawa, and they lost a bunch of men, too.
P: Well, no one knows for sure, but if they had to invade the homeland, it would cost
a lot of Japanese lives and a lot of American lives.
G: You just have no idea how many could have gone.
P: Every military man I've talked to has no problem with us dropping the bombs.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 20
G: You know what people don't say, the other part of this equation, we were already
fire bombing them, and we did more damage in Tokyo one night than we did in
Hiroshima. Everybody kind of glosses over that.
P: Yes, it wasn't the first time that we'd done huge damage.
G: Enola Gay was cleaning them out. What we were going to do, we had a new
radar set, and we were going to go in and pick up targets they hadn't been able
to pick up with their old radar. The old radar had a 360 degree antenna that went
around 360 degrees like a windshield wiper. The one we had was an electronic
wing underneath there. We'd practiced bombing out in B-24s out in California,
Victorville; we'd not only just hit a building, we'd pick the corner of the building or
something and we could aim at it. We were going to really clean em up.
P: But the Norden bomb sight and the new radar system, all that made a huge
difference. Plus, as I understand it, the B-29, other than the engines, was by far
and away a superior plane.
G: Oh, it was a big event. Of course, it was the first pressurized airplane, it had the
central fire control system with all the guns, and it just had so many advantages.
It had tremendous range. We'd fly fifteen or sixteen hour missions just in training.
P: Talk a little bit about being on a B-29. The thing that's always amazed me when
you get on that plane, is the crew, there were eleven or twelve, and you couldn't
imagine they could all get in that plane. But they all sort of fit in.
G: We really had quite a bit of room in a B-29. It was a big airplane. It had two
compartments, one in the front and one in the rear, and it was connected by a
tunnel. That was the pressurized part. Now the tail gunner, he was back in a little
place all by himself, he couldn't connect when we were pressurized. But if you
were in the rear end and you wanted to go up to the front, you climbed through
that tunnel that went right over the bomb bays and went up to the front. But it was
a big airplane, it really wasn't very cramped inside.
P: In a lot of the old B-17s you had to walk along the side of the bomb bay doors.
G: B-17s were noisy and cold. I trained quite a bit in B-17s and B-24s; B-24s were
the same way. B-24s were probably noisier than B-17s inside.
P: When you look back on your service, how did that influence your life?
G: I think it had tremendous influence. I grew up in the service and I learned I could
take care of myself. In fact, my Dad did not approve of my getting married. I got
married when I was just twenty, Pat was twenty; it was a crazy thing to do. Dad
didn't approve of that and we had kind of a little falling out. I had decided I wasn't
going to come back to Florida and I was absolutely confident I could take care of
myself. I really thought I'd probably become a lawyer and I thought I'd go to the
University of Minnesota and maybe live in Minneapolis. But then we made
amends and got back together.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 21
P: What was his objection to the marriage?
G: Well, we were both twenty, he'd never seen her, I mean, he had seen her but he
didn't really know her very well, and he was scared to death I'd never go back to
college. My Dad was a big believer in education. There was no GI Bill in history
or anything like that, and he just thought [it was a foolish thing to do], and it was a
foolish thing to do. When you look at it from afar, it really doesn't make any sense
at all, but it worked.
P: It turned out to be a good decision, right?
G: It worked out fine.
P: How did you meet her?
G: Well, when we went to Minneapolis, they housed us in the football stadium, they
housed us in the handball courts, which had ceilings about thirty feet high, so
they couldn't really heat the damn place. It was colder than __ in there. But we
ate our meals at the student union. We had just come from Arkansas, where we
had very primitive cooking, and Miami Beach, where it [the food] was terrible.
The commanding officer was a literal Philadelphia lawyer and he couldn't do
anything right, and we almost had a mutiny. I was glad to get out of there
because we had a bunch of guys who had quite a bit of time, and this nonsense
that was going on was really bad. We got to Minneapolis and went to the student
union to eat, they had ladies in white uniforms, the food was well cooked, the
food was nice; it was just like going to heaven from where'd we'd been. Then
you'd come out after dinner and these girls would be all out there in the student
union. Pat and three of her buddies were playing bridge and we had met a girl
who knew them, and we went over and said hello. We started watching them
play bridge and that's how we got acquainted.
P: Now at that point she was a freshman at the University of Minnesota?
G: She was a freshman at the university.
P: What was her reaction to getting married, because obviously it interrupts her
education as well?
G: Well, we both reacted, we wanted to do it. I had to come down here and get my
Dad's permission. I wasn't old enough to get married without it, and when I did
that I had to sign papers giving up any rights to any property or anything like that.
Then we had to go back to Minneapolis and we had to get a judge to waive the
three day wait-which they did all the time. If you were in uniform they'd do that.
We got married in a ceremony that the only person I knew was Pat and her maid
of honor, who I'd just met, her mother, my best man I didn't know-he was a
young high school friend of hers who was in the Army going to medical school,
and the ushers were two Navy friends of hers who were going to medical school
at the university. But it was fine.
P: Did you have time for a honeymoon?
G: Yes, our honeymoon was in Chicago. We went to Chicago, and I don't know how
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 22
many days we had, three or four or five days at the Palmer House in Chicago.
P: Well, that's a nice place to go.
G: A nice place, and we had a great time. You talk about being on an air crew, the
thing on an air crew, even when you're not in combat like we were doing, you
form a family, you really do. I still have a relationship [with those men]. The
central control gunner lives up in New York on Staten Island. My radio operator
lives in Kansas. All the officers are dead. I guess there may be one other fellow
who's alive, I'm not sure whether he is or not. But for quite a while there, we were
all a unit and we really got together very well.
P: What did Pat do? Did she sort of follow you around, or did she stay in
G: Well, when we first got married we were stationed in Hays, Kansas, at Walker
Field-it's between Hays and Russell. We lived there for a few months. I told you,
we lived with a professor there who was really nice, and it was nice living in a
little university town, a little college town. It was Hays State Teacher's College
then, and it's Western Kansas now. We lived there and then I went overseas, so
we got to know each other about six months before I went overseas.
P: Where did she stay when you were overseas?
G: She went back to her mother and went to Minnesota, went to the university, and
went back to school.
P: Now once you get through with the service, explain how, in specific terms, you
made up the rift with your father.
G: Well, when I was in Okinawa, after the war was over-Dad ran for governor in
1944, and I was in Hondo, Texas, taking navigation training-and he lost, and he
was disappointed, as politicians are. He had developed quite an interest in
politics, and less and less in the business, and I'd always wanted to come back
and be a farmer. When I went to high school at Miami High, they ask you to put
down what you wanted to be and then they put you in home rooms that way-I
was the only one out of 2,000 that put farmer in the thing. But anyway, he started
writing to me and he wrote to Phil, and he wanted me to meet with him and go
over to Michigan State University and meet with Dr. John Hannah, who was the
President of Michigan State. I don't know if you remember him, but he was the
head of Eisenhower's Civil Rights Committee. He really built Michigan State. So
we went over to see Dr. Hannah, and he recommended I do exactly what I
wanted to do. He recommended I get a liberal arts degree and then I could go
several different directions, and that's exactly what I'd already decided to do, so I
thought he was a great man too. But that pleased Dad, he was all right then too,
so then I agreed. When we were going to school, he furnished me a car in
Gainesville, and for that car I was supposed to come down here one weekend a
month to get familiar with what was going on with the farm and stay in touch, and
in the summer I would come here and spend the summer working. I did that for
two years and then I came back.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 23
So when I graduated in 1949, he was tickled to death I was coming back.
Then also, in 1948, he had run for county commission, he got mad about the
flood. The county commission had paid no attention to the levees out here
because everybody was worried about saving water and they didn't want to think
about floods, floods weren't going to be a problem. Well, of course in 1947 the
flood was a big problem and he was furious about that. He made the mistake that
all politicians should do, he ran when he was mad. He thought because of his
popularity before in the Senate and the big vote he got for governor-he got the
biggest vote any loser ever got-that he could walk right in. Well, he didn't, he got
beat, and that really hurt him. He was ready then to spend more time at Albany,
Georgia, than he was in Miami. So when I came down here I practically walked
into an open door. Anything I suggested almost, he was in favor of.
P: Talk about your time at the University of Florida. You came at a really auspicious
time. Right after the war, for the first time, coeds, coming, but the great majority
of students after the war, there were a huge number of them, were Gl's. So it
completely overwhelmed the university facilities-they didn't have enough faculty,
they didn't have enough buildings. Describe what it was like when you started
school in 1946.
.G: Well, one of the things, we had to find a place to live. We couldn't get in Flavet
because that was packed; we'd spent a year in Minnesota, so it was a year later.
We found this house at this man who was a mailman who had a single story
house, but during the war he put a second story on it. He picked up lumber here
and there wherever he could, it wasn't easy to get, and it was not much of a
house. The apartment didn't have a bathroom-we shared a bathroom with
another apartment and a suite of two girls, and another couple in this apartment.
Everything in it was pretty primitive, but we thought it was great. We had a place
to live and that was just wonderful. As far as I can remember my classes, I don't
remember them being huge at all. I have no idea how many people were in them,
but I enjoyed them very much.
P: What did you major in when you went there?
G: I had three subjects that I majored in-what do you call it when it's made into one
thing? It was political science, psychology, and economics. My thought was that
if I wanted to be a lawyer, that would be a good thing to do, plus I liked all those
P: So at that point you were still thinking of going to law school?
G: Yes, I wanted to keep that open. I wasn't going to close any doors.
P: Then you would have taken some of what they used to call the C courses.
G: I went there originally in 1942 and took C courses, but when I came back I was a
junior. I had gotten a year at Minnesota, plus I got credit for a semester when I
was in the service, the time I spent at the college training in Minnesota. Plus I
took a couple of tests and they'd given me a semester's credit.
P: So when you get back, what is your interaction with the other Gl's? Were many
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 24
of these people working? I guess most of them would have been on the GI Bill.
G: They were all on the GI Bill really, but it was a different attitude. I'll tell you a story
to explain it. In my state government class I had a guy sitting next to me and he'd
been a paratrooper and he'd gone in on D-Day. He got caught in a tree and this
German shot him and he shot this German. He was captured by the Germans
and they pulled him down. He was all wounded and they put him in the back of
an ambulance with this German he'd shot and the German had shot him. They
were in this ambulance for twelve hours, but while they were in it the German
died and he didn't. So he grew up pretty quick about life and stuff. He told about
joining a fraternity and he went to the pledging part and they started a bunch of
nonsense and he said he was just too damn old and mature to be doing that, and
he wasn't any older than most of them. It was just a different attitude about
P: People were really serious.
G: A lot of them were really serious on doing well in school.
P: They'd lost many years out of their lives.
G: Well, they'd grown up too. They were a lot more mature than they had been
P: Plus, many of them had families and they needed to get out and get a job.
G: And they wanted to get out. I had in my crew, my bombardier was a young fellow
who's father had died when he was in the tenth grade. He had three or four or
five sisters, I don't know, but he had to quit school and go to work for a railroad.
He worked as a clerk for the railroad to support his family. He got in the Air Corps
and got a commission and was a bombardier. When we were over in Okinawa,
one of the duties I had part of the time was assistant I&E officer, information and
education officer, and we talked him into taking some tests and getting his high
school diploma, which he'd never gotten. When he came back on the GI Bill, he
went to the University of Houston, got a degree, and became an accountant and
worked for a huge aircraft company and did very well. But his life was changed
completely because of the GI Bill and the military.
P: Some historians have argued that's probably the best investment the government
of the United States ever made.
G: I could argue that; I've read a book that argued that and I'd argue that myself.
P: What it did, of course, not only provided education for all these people but
popularized higher education so that more and more people saw the advantage
of going to school.
G: Right, and it was a time, as I've said before, when an awful lot of people didn't
have much education. I mean, now there's a lot of education out there if you want
to get it at high school or community colleges-they don't call them community
colleges anymore they told me last night. But it's there in various ways to get,
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 25
and it wasn't there back in the 1930s and 1940s. When I went to the University of
Florida in 1942, you just walked up there. If you had the $200 or whatever it was,
you could get in, and yet there weren't any big mobs going there.
P: Did Pat go to school at all while she was at Florida?
G: At Florida? Yes. She got a degree in journalism at Minnesota, and at Florida she
became the assistant to the head of the journalism department. So she was a
student assistant and took some graduate courses while she was doing that.
P: Did you spend any time at all visiting people in Flavet, either Flavet 1, II, or III?
G: Not very much if I did. I met one fellow I visited. I was trying to hire him. When I
was at Minnesota, even though I was taking liberal arts courses, there was a
professor in dairy over there that was one of the outstanding dairy professors in
the world, Dr. Peterson. I went over and visited with him, and he was happy to
visit with me because we had a big dairy-we were milking 600 or 700 cows at
least then, and that was a big thing. I got to know him fairly well and got the
relationship developed with him. Artificial breeding was just coming on the
course, it wasn't here yet, and I was anxious to see if we could get our cows
artificially bred. Artificial breeding improves the herds and the kind of bulls you
had. There was a young man at the University of Florida and I was trying to hire
him, and he lived in Flavet. I didn't get to hire him, but he went to Orlando and
started an artificial breeding service, and then he later became a dairy farmer. He
was from Iowa. That's the only one I can remember really visiting in Flavet much.
I don't know much about what went on in Flavet.
P: Were you involved during your time at the university in a lot of the social
activities? Did you go to the football games?
G: Well, everybody went to football games. One year I was there, we didn't win a
game. We went to some of the things at the fraternity. I was in SAE up there and
we went to some of the things there, but being married, you were different than
the single guys. But we met a couple. There was a girl in one of Pat's classes-
and she said the problem with the girls in their classes was they were all looking
for boys-but she met one girl with a wedding ring on and they got to be good
buddies. Her husband and I hit it off pretty well, so we did a lot of things with
P: Was there much to do in Gainesville then? I guess there was one movie theater?
G: Well, I think one, maybe two. I don't know. We'd save our money and once a
week we'd go to the Primrose Grill. We could buy a meal I think for $1.39 or
something like that.
P: That was really about the only decent restaurant.
G: Yes, it's the only thing I can remember. But we made our own deal. One thing
that we did, Pat did this too some, we fished quite a bit. I bought a little old kicker
and we'd go down and rent a boat down in Orange Lake and we'd fish. I met
guys in my classes that were fishermen and we did that quite a bit, just bass,
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 26
crappie, and bream fishing.
P: Now when you finished Florida, you still had in the back of your mind you might
go to law school?
G: No, by then I'd had two summers plus two years down here with Dad. I could
see, one, that it was wide open, and two, it was a real opportunity for me.
P: I do know you graduated Phi Beta Kappa, so you must have always been a good
G: I was a pretty good student. I liked school; I always did like school.
P: You always have liked to read. Part of it is basically being focused. I've talked to
a lot of Gl's who've said that they were not very good before. You happened to
be a good student before and after, but a lot of them were, as they would say,
wastrels, but once they got in the military, then when they went to school they
were focused, they were willing to get out as quick as they could.
G: Well, with my Dad you were focused to begin with.
P: You didn't have much choice.
G: No, there was never any doubt in our family about what we were going to do,
with Bob, Phil, and Mary, all of us.
P: Now once you get through there you come right back to Miami Lakes, Florida.
P: What was the status of the Graham Companies then or is that later?
G: No, it was called Graham's Dairy.
P: Graham's Dairy. What was the status of the dairy at that time?
G: When I came back we were milking cows and we were distributing milk. We'd
bottle it and distribute the milk all over Dade County. I think we had fifteen or
sixteen milk routes that we ran.
P: These are home routes?
G: Well, we called the home route, retail routes. I think four or five of them were
what we called wholesale routes, they went to grocery stores, hospitals,
P: Piggly Wiggly was one in the beginning?
G: At that time we didn't have Piggly Wiggly; we tended to have the independent
stores. Dad didn't want anybody to have too big a share of our business, and he
stayed away from the major chains.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 27
P: Was the business successful when you got there?
G: Well, we'd been eating on it and we'd survived. The distribution business was
changing then. I came back in 1949 permanently, and I think it was in 1952 or
so-we'd gone through the whole year, and we worked our butts off, we worked
seven days a week doing all that nonsense-and I think we made $50 on the
distribution. I walked in to Dad and said, we either ought to get big in this thing
and go at it where we can do something, or we ought to get out. He said, what do
you recommend? I said, I recommend we get out of it. He picked up the phone
and called Foremost Dairy, which is a big national dairy, National Dairy, and
Borden, and within two weeks we'd sold it. Then we just started concentrating on
the cows and that was a lot happier for me.
P: Was it a little bit easier?
G: I don't know if it was easier, but it was less headaches. In the dairy business, and
this was one of the things too that motivated me. One day I was sick, I had the
flu or something and I stayed home, and I got a call from the office. The
University of Miami, who we served, the cafeteria there was in a big dither. Some
law students had drunk some chocolate milk and they claimed it had
formaldehyde in it and it had poisoned them. They hadn't taken their law test, so
they'd lost their opportunity and they were going to sue us for everything. I got
dressed and went over to the university, and what had happened was there was
some chocolate milk that had soured. So I sat there and drank a half pint of that
damn soured chocolate milk to show that lady there wasn't any poison to it. You
constantly had something like that going on, because, well, you're dealing with a
bunch of people out there.
We used to have bottles back in the old days, and we had this very
elaborate bottle washer that ran it through all kind of processes. But invariably
something would happen. This one woman got a little rain fog in her milk and she
was about to have a fit. Our one driver convinced her, ma'am, if that came
through that it's the cleanest, most sterile thing in the whole world. He talked her
into it. But you constantly were dealing with people.
P: What kind of milk did you have? I guess this is before skim milk?
G: No, we had the whole line of milk. We didn't have 2% milk. It started out originally
that we had pasteurized milk that wasn't homogenized, and we used to have a
bottle that you had a little utensil you could put down the neck of it and pour the
cream off. We all talked about cream line milk, all the dairies, and we milked
Jersey cows back then to get high butterfat. Of course, nobody wants high
butterfat now, but back then we wanted 5.2, 5.3 percent butterfat. Then we came
on and we homogenized, which broke all that up, and that was a big event to us.
Then we came with cartons, and that was a big event when we got it up. But we
had heavy cream, light cream, skim milk, cottage cheese, all the dairy products.
P: Chocolate milk?
G: Chocolate milk, yeah.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 28
P: Ice cream?
G: No, we didn't have ice cream.
P: I can remember they used to bring the milk bottles in these little wire containers
and when you finished with them you put them out and they would take the
empties and bring you new ones.
G: Yes. Well, a typical one of our drivers would have a whole bunch of keys in his
pocket, and a lot of people had him put milk in their refrigerators if they'd gone to
work or something. They got to be very close to a lot of those families.
P: It was the day before gated communities and alarm systems, where people
would actually leave the front door open. You wouldn't do that today.
G: No, not in very many places.
P: Let me go back and talk a little bit about your father and his political career. He
ran for the state senate in 1936, and wins that election. The story is he ran
because the people who were running Hialeah were a bunch of crooks. He was
upset that they had put up some sort of road block and were charging the drivers
a toll. Is that correct?
G: That's not exactly correct. Let me go back. In 1936 we had two newspapers in
Miami, Miami Herald and the Miami News. Both of them had their own political
group. The one at the News in fact they called Little Tammy [after Tammany Hall
in N .Y. City], and they had an organization with a clubhouse and they had
precinct captains and all this stuff. Dad in some way had become a very good
friend of the publisher of the News, Dan Mahoney, who was a son in law of
Governor Cox [James M. Cox, governor of New York, presidential candidate in
1920]. Dad's attorney was a man named W.I. Evans, who founded one of the
major law firms that used to be Mashawn, Sawyer, and it was Evans, Mashawn,
Sawyer originally. W.I. was one of these lawyers that was a great lawyer, but he
also liked to mess around in politics. In 1928, he got Dad appointed to the
governor's staff. The governor's staff dressed up in Sam Browne belts and
uniforms and had their picture taken with the governor. I don't know what else
they did. That was Governor Martin. Then he had Governor Doyle Carlton put
him on the road board; Doyle Carlton, Senior.
He served with Bill Shands and they got to be very good friends on the road
board. But Dad got a taste for politics, and knowing Dad's basic personality,
politics didn't look like something he'd really like to do, but he did. W.I. Evans and
Dan Mahoney and all, they encouraged him to run for the Senate.
Now, the Hialeah thing became part of the crusade over the period of time,
and he's famous for having passed a bill. Back in those days a state senator
could pass any kind of local legislation. He and the three legislators, which is
what we had, if they had anything they wanted, he'd go and do the same thing.
He passed one bill abolishing the city of Hialeah, and in the next bill
reestablishing the city of Hialeah with a new city council. Well, of course they
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 29
threw that out, but for awhile he had them pretty shaken up with that. He was
fighting the gangs, and it wasn't just the local gang. He got into the race tracks
and really it was the Chicago Mob. For several years he didn't go anywhere
without a bodyguard. When I was about fourteen, I can remember the phone
ringing out at Pennsuco at about two o'clock in the morning, and I picked it up.
We only had one telephone sitting down at the store and I picked it up and this
gruff voice [said], your old man will be dead by twelve o'clock tomorrow. Our
house sat back about an eighth or a quarter mile from the road-they'd shine
spotlights on the house from the road and that kind of thing. It didn't scare Dad, it
just made him more determined. He actually got them run out of the state.
P: I've heard this is the Hyde-Slaton gang.
G: No, that's the local gang, that's a different kind, I'll tell you about them in a
minute. But this was the old Capone gang, and they owned Tropical Race Track.
The reason they owned it, they wanted that information quickly for all their wire
services across the country. There was a lot of money in that. When they
exposed that, then they had to dispose of Hyde Tropical Park, and they didn't like
that at all.
Now the Hyde-Slaton Gang was a bunch of kind of rough people in Hialeah.
This is a fascinating truth, but the [current] mayor of Miami Lakes is a nephew of
Slaton. He's a nice guy, Wayne Slaton. Bob likes to the tell the story of Dad
getting this post card from one of these Slatons who's in the federal penitentiary
in Atlanta saying, I just want to let you know, Senator, if I was there I'd vote for
you because you're the only honest son-of-a-bitch around. You said you were
going to put me in jail and you did. I don't know if that's true or not, but it's a good
story. Anyway, they were bad people and up above Pennsuco they had a
bootlegging still. I can remember bodies coming down the canal with their hands
tied together with wire where they killed people up there. They were not nice
people. There was a whole family of these Slatons. I went to school with one of
the girls and she was a mean person too; they were just mean people. But Hyde
was really the mean one; he was a Sadist. I think he and Red Slaton ended up in
a penitentiary. Hialeah at that time was populated by brothels and gambling
casinos. Of course, gambling was illegal, but it was going on. That was what was
going on in Hialeah.
P: One of the bills that I think he passed or sponsored a bill increased the
parimutual tax, and that's what upset all of these people.
G: Yes. Well, that was his way of getting back at these race tracks. The old people
had nothing back then. I can remember coming to our house at Pennsuco and
they had a pension that was $8 or $10 a month and their drug bill was $12 a
month. Dad became quite compassionate about old people, and he decided one
way he could help them was to raise some tax money and raise the pension by
taxing the race tracks. If you represented Wakulla County or Walton County, you
could care less about the race tracks, but you'd like to help those old people. He
was able to do that and that's what he did.
P: Well, didn't that get them even more angry than they'd been before?
G: That really tore them up, and in 1940 when he ran for re-election-Spessard
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 30
Holland [U.S. Senator from Florida, 1946-1971; Florida governor, 1940-1945;
Florida state senator, 1932-1940] who had been his seat mate was running for
governor, and Dad really worked for Spessard Holland-but Dad almost lost his
seat to a candidate that the race tracks put up and really financed. But he was
able to win it and save it.
P: He also, at one point tried to eliminate the poll tax?
G: He did. He eliminated the poll tax, and Senator Holland eliminated the poll tax on
the national level and he always gave Dad credit for influencing him to do that.
P: By doing the state poll tax first.
P: Was that an easy thing to accomplish, or was there a lot of opposition?
G: I think by then it was getting easier than it would have been earlier.
P: But there would still have been some opposition right?
G: There was still opposition, right. You know later Bob abolished everything in the
constitution that referred to poll taxes.
P: Well, at this point he is pretty successful; he's been on the state road board, he's
been in the senate, and then he begins to start thinking about running for
G: Let me go back and talk about one thing too; he started business for himself in
January 1932, how in the world he had the gumption to run for the Senate in
1936, I don't know, because in 1935 we had this terrible hurricane that just
almost destroyed the buildings at Pennsuco. It was just terrible. We had a bridge
that went over toward where the mill plant was, and it was blown off, they had to
take the milk across in a rowboat for a long time until they finally got the bridge
back. Financially he had to be in very poor shape, and he financed his campaign
by railroad irons that the sugar company had and he sold those railroad irons
[rails] to junk people. I always kidded him that he sold it, it went to Japan and
they sent it back to us. Because they did, they bought a lot of junk if you
remember back then.
P: They dropped it all at Pearl Harbor?
P: Well, at this point he apparently is very ambitious politically and must have
thought in 1944 he had a pretty good chance of winning that race. Now I
understand he was pretty upset because he helped Spessard Holland and
Spessard didn't help him.
G: He was very upset.
P: Would that have made enough difference for him to win?
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 31
G: I don't think he could have won the election, it could possibly have gotten him in
a run-off because he was very close.
P: That would have been 1944 and the winner would have been Millard Caldwell.
G: Millard Caldwell was the leader, but the man that beat Dad was a man from
P: Lex Green?
G: Lex Green.
P: So really he was second?
G: It was very close. And if Dad had gotten in the run-off, he thinks to this day that
he would have won it. I'm not sure he could have.
P: Well, Millard Caldwell wasn't a very impressive campaigner.
G: He was not a very impressive governor. That was the one I had the quarrel with
my buddy, I told you about my political science friend before, what's his name?
P: Richard Sher.
G: Because he kind of wrote nice things about Caldwell. Caldwell just came into the
state, and we had a lot of money left over from the war that they had. He spent
all the money building buildings in Tallahassee. The education system went to
pot, and then in 1948, when Fuller Warren won, he discovered they didn't have
any money, and he had to put the sales tax in, which killed him politically, but
which saved [the education system]. The education system was terrible, and it
was underfinanced, didn't have any money, you know.
P: After Graham lost in 1944, what was his attitude toward politics? You say he ran
for the County Commission.
P: But that decision came about because in 1947 ....
G: The flood thing.
P: Government's failure to deal with it. He was not successful in the county
commission race. Did that pretty much end his political career?
G: Oh, yes. In fact, then he spent more and more time in Albany, Georgia. He really
was much happier there than he was down here.
P: So at this point, basically, if you could give me a date, by 1948, he has
essentially turned the dairy and operations over to you?
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 32
G: No. See, in 1948, I was still at the University of Florida.
P: But you would come in the summer.
G: Yeah, but I didn't get out until the spring of 1949. Actually, he stayed active for a
year or two in there, maybe a couple of years, even. He was very amenable to
most things, but I was learning, too. But then, I could see- the top farm guy he
had, the two of them wouldn't even speak to each other. This was the fellow that
had come from his hometown in Michigan, he was very close to, but they had
some kind of falling out-they were both pretty hot tempered. I came back, and I
had to communicate between the two of them.
P: Now the 1947 flood was the flood that started the South Florida Flood Control.
G: The flood control system.
P: Yes. Did you see a great improvement once that became a focus?
G: Well, it stopped us from having floods.
P: Yes. They put in all these canals ....
G: Well, they widened the canals, and then they put in some pumping stations in
some places in Broward County, but they had the whole conservation system.
P: At this point, when you return and you're going to be here full time from 1949 on?
What was your primary responsibility in 1949?
G: At the company?
G: Well, I would say there was a short period there where I was just in a learning
transitional period. I have thought through this a little bit, when you're a
father/son relationship in business, many fathers don't ever really cut it loose.
They say they have backed off, and they don't, they're back there. It's hard on
the son, I've seen it. I've got too many friends and people I know like that. I must
say, in all fairness to Dad, he more and more indicated to me that he was really
anxious for me to come on and really take over, so instead of putting up
problems for me, he just kind of opened the doors. In fact, he told me one time if I
had to do something that was unpleasant, blame him, that he could take that and
then I wouldn't have to. He really was helpful to me.
P: He showed a lot of confidence in you.
G: Yes, he did, but he was tired, too. If you've ever been in politics, you love it. I
mean, they get addicted. I've had a lot of political friends, and it's an addiction. I
don't care if it's my brother, the rest of them, all of them, they love that. Going
back to something like operating a business in a dairy is really kind of mundane
and dull compared to that, so he was ready for it, let me put it that way.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 33
P: What was your relationship during this time to your sister Mary?
G: It was very good.
P: Now she had, at some point, left and moved to California?
G: She got divorced and I don't know, it was later. Sometime in the 1950s she got
divorced, and she moved to California.
P: Did you have good contact with her during this period of time?
G: Yes, very good.
P: How about your brother Phil?
G: We were very close.
P: Talk a little bit about his career. He went to Harvard Law. It seems to me he was
a clerk for Justice Frankfurter [Felix Frankfurter, Justice, U.S. Supreme Court,
1939-1962; co-founder of the ACLU, 1920], right?
G: He was a clerk first for Justice Reed, and then when Frankfurter got appointed,
Frankfurter wanted a clerk who had some experience. Phil had been a protege of
Frankfurter's at Harvard, so he asked Phil to stay and be his clerk also.
P: Then he went to work with the Washington Post, is that right?
G: No. After Frankfurter he went to work with the government. What's the name of
the damn agency? This is the war time you've got to remember. He was working
for Lend-Lease, and then he joined the Air Corps. Phil's intention was to come to
Florida and get into politics. Dad urged him to join as an enlisted man because in
WWI that was important if you were a Veteran of Foreign War or the American
Legion, whereas it didn't mean that much after World War II. So he joined the Air
Corps and they sent him to radio school out in Rapid City, South Dakota. Shortly
after that they transferred him to intelligence and he went to Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania, and trained some there. He ended up out in the Pacific and he
was on the staff of General Kenny, who was [General Douglas] MacArthur's Air
Force general. He spent several months or years, at least, out in the Pacific in
that, and that's what he did.
P: Then he comes back to D.C.
G: That's when he went to the Washington Post.
P: Is that where he met Kay Meyer?
G: No, they were married.
P: Oh, they were already married.
G: He met her while he was clerking, actually, I think. Phil and a group of guys, I
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 34
don't know how many of them, there was quite a group of them, had rented a
house. It was actually in Virginia just across the river, and they had a lot dinner
parties and stuff. Kay came one time and met Phil and they were both attracted
to each other, and then Kay's father, Mr. Meyer ....
P: Eugene Meyer.
G: Eugene Meyer, one of the wealthiest men in America and at one time was quite a
prominent Republican-head of the RFC [Reconstruction Finance Corporation]
and things like that. Philosophically he and Phil were pretty extreme; Phil was
pretty liberal. Kay took him to dinner, and she likes to tell the story that she didn't
know what was going to happen; they hit it off, they liked each other very much.
They [Mr. Meyer and Phil] would go at each other, you know how you can do with
certain people, and they got along really well. Mr. Meyer only had one son, and
he was a psychiatrist up at Johns Hopkins and didn't have any interest in the
newspaper or anything. Mr. Meyer, the newspaper to him was really kind of a
plaything. He bought it on a bankruptcy sale day. But he wanted somebody and
he asked Phil to come in and be his assistant, so Phil came in. Then he was
appointed again to the World Bank or president of the World Bank, so when he
left then, Phil became publisher of the Washington Post, and that's how it
P: What year was that?
G: I'm not exactly sure, but it was right after World War II, it had to be 1946 or 1947,
along in there.
P: Now, was Phil the one who is going to end up buying Newsweek and expanding
the Post and making it into a world class newspaper?
G: When Phil came to the Post, there were three or four newspapers in Washington,
and the Post was losing money.
P: The Washington Star was there.
G: [The] Herald Tribune I think; I forget the names of them. They were losing
money, but they were trying to build a good newspaper. Phil looked around to
see what might help him, and before he bought Newsweek, he started buying TV
stations. TV was just coming, and he saw that TV was going to be a money
machine. It was then, particularly, and he bought the one in Jacksonville, he
bought the one in Connecticut, he bought the one in Washington, and he bought
the one here in Miami, Channel ten. He did things like that. Then Mr. Meyer and
Phil bought the Herald Tribune, [and] that was the big thing that made the Post
become a profitable newspaper. Nobody thought that Sissy Patterson would sell
it to them because she was Colonel McKormick's niece or something, very
conservative, and she did, and they got to purchase it. I can remember I was
living in a little house in Miami Springs when they bought it. They had been up at
Palm Beach doing something and they came by to see me. Mr. Meyer always
wore a bowler and had a chauffeur and stuff, and here was this little house in a
very medium, low [income] neighborhood, and they drive up, you know. But Mr.
Meyer was a really nice man and he was always nice to me and nice to
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 35
everybody. He was one of those people that does it.
P: What did you think of Kay Graham?
G: I really liked Kay.
P: She turned out to be a very successful publisher.
G: She did, and that was quite a transition for her.
P: She had not had any newspaper experience at all.
G: A person who played a big role in that that doesn't get the credit and should is a
man named Fritz Beebe. Fritz Beebe was an attorney with Craveth and Swain
when they bought Newsweek. Phil bought Newsweek at a cocktail party and had
to write a counter check for the deposit. The last time I was in Kay's office she
still had it behind her desk-I think it was a $2 million check that he wrote. Well,
Fritz Beebe was the attorney and Phil told Fritz he wasn't going to buy
Newsweek if Fritz didn't join the company with him, so he did, and he became
president of the Washington Post Company. When Kay had this dumped on her
lap, Fritz was there to help her. Fritz was not the kind of guy that wanted to take
over, he wanted to be supportive. If he would have been a different kind of
person, Kay would probably never have been the publisher. Do you hear what
I'm saying? Instead of that, he was very supportive of her.
P: He helped her in the transition. She was publisher during Watergate and all these
G: Yeah, when the Pentagon Papers came in, if you read that story, it tells about
Fritz. He was the attorney and they had to make a decision whether this was
true, and he finally said to go with it.
P: That was a very courageous thing to do.
G: Yeah, back then. It doesn't seem like it now, but it was.
P: It was then.
[End of Tape A, Side 2.]
G: A couple things about Phil that illustrate the kind of person he was. When Phil
went to Harvard, he became very successful at Harvard. He was editor of the
Law Review, and as I said, he was a protege of Frankfurter; he and Frankfurter
were very good friends. In fact, Frankfurter and my father became very good
friends, eventually. But Phil was a player, and he was into everything. When he
was a clerk at the Supreme Court, and I think it was with Frankfurter, and I was
up there visiting one time, he took me with him. He went over to see the
chairman of the National Democratic Committee. Are you familiar with the name
Ellis Arnall of Georgia?
P: Sure, the governor of Georgia.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 36
G: He was considered then a very moderate, liberal governor compared to the
others. They were trying to help him, the National Democratic party, but they
knew that if any money came down from the North it would be the kiss of death.
So Phil had come up with the idea that the way to get the money to him was to
have Dad take it. Dad was a southern senator. Now the money they were talking
about back in those days was $5,000-1 never will forget that discussion-and they
were talking about how they were going to do this if they did it. I don't know if
they ever even got it done. But when I left there, then Phil told me, I like taking
you to things like this, but you have to be discreet, and when you do this, you
don't talk about it to anybody. I learned early on not to do that. Then I was in his
home one night, and you remember when they integrated Little Rock and the big
turmoil they were having?
P: That was in 1957.
G: He had learned that Orval Faubus, the governor of Arkansas, was a very big
admirer of Harry Truman, and that had Harry Truman asked him that he bring out
the National Guard for the state, they wouldn't have to send federal troops in.
Phil was trying to get that done and he found out that Harry Truman wouldn't do it
unless Eisenhower asked Truman to do it, because Eisenhower had offended
him-if you remember-at Inauguration Day. So Phil was trying to get a hold of the
White House, and Eisenhower was up at Newport playing golf, and as he
described it, the thirteenth in control was at the White House couldn't make any
decisions and couldn't do anything. I'm listening to all this as he's going on the
phone. Lyndon Johnson is down at Texas speaking at the American Legion, and
Phil treated Lyndon-they just screamed at each other like they were really close.
I remember him hanging the phone up and saying, God damn it Lyndon, then go
march your damn storm troopers, then he slammed the phone down. He got very
disappointed that he couldn't get that done, but he was always trying to get
things done. I guess in some ways he wouldn't have been a very good
newspaper publisher in the long run, but he was the old style that you
P: What was his relationship with, and how well did he know Jack Kennedy?
G: They were very close. Kennedy, for instance, I remember Phil telling me one
time-you know, Kennedy realized Phil was sick. In fact, Phil was out at Phoenix,
Arizona, one time at the publisher's convention, and I got a call from Fritz
[Beebe]. He said, Bill, you need to go out to Phoenix. I said, why? He said, Phil
just hit the publisher of the Los Angeles Times in the jaw. I said, really? He said,
somebody made a comment about him? Maybe you can calm him down. So I got
on a plane, got out to Phoenix, and he was all right then. But then they kidnapped
him and brought him back to Washington on a Washington Post plane. Phil was
always into something trying to help somebody do something.
[About his relationship with] Kennedy. When he was out at Phoenix, they had
two psychiatrists and they were trying to get them out there to see him, and the
weather was terrible, in fact, I had a hell of a time getting there. These guys had
left in a charter DC-3 and they had to land in Kentucky somewhere. Well, the
Kennedy White House sent a military plane to pick them up and take them to
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 37
Phil. It really was completely illegal and everything. One time Kennedy was going
overseas and Phil was in the Hotel Carlisle, New York, and Kennedy always had
a private apartment there, and he sent Phil his nightly briefing papers, whatever
he had. Phil said the thing that hit him more than anything was how poorly they
were printed; he said you could hardly read the damn things. Kennedy didn't
want any comments, so he [Phil Graham] wrote down at the bottom of the thing,
I'd fire the SOB who put this together for you. But they were very close.
P: He supported Kennedy's election bid of 1960.
G: He caused it; he caused Kennedy to put Johnson on the ticket, which probably
won the election for him.
P: Talk about that a little bit.
G: Well, Phil told me about it. In fact, in 1960, I flew up to Fredrick, Maryland, to buy
some Angus cattle, and he was on his way out to the convention. Bob [Graham]
was a worker for Johnson. I asked Phil, I said, Phil, who do you prefer, Lyndon
Johnson or Jack Kennedy? He said, well, Lyndon probably knows a lot more
about government, but he said, Jack Kennedy is much more electable. He said,
I'm really for Kennedy. If you recall, Mrs. Roosevelt was still supporting
Stevenson in the Democratic Convention.
P: Because she didn't like Kennedy at all.
G: No, and after Kennedy got the nomination-you know Phil went down and talked
Kennedy into putting Johnson on the ticket because he wouldn't have won if they
hadn't carried all those other Southern states. If they hadn't done that they
wanted to put the guy from Missouri on there, what's his name?
P: Stuart Symington [U.S. Senator from Missouri].
G: They would not have carried some of those states if they had [taken him].
P: They wouldn't have carried Texas, that's for sure.
G: No, and probably some other states too.
P: I also heard that Joe Kennedy felt that was a good idea.
G: He may have, but Bobby Kennedy thought it was a terrible idea.
P: Bobby didn't want to do it.
G: No, they kept it a secret from Bobby. They kept it quiet. Jack Kennedy was a
good politician, a lot of people don't realize that. He was a better politician than
Bobby Kennedy was, and I knew Bobby Kennedy a little bit, but Jack Kennedy
was a good politician.
P: Did Phil think he was a good president?
G: Yes, a good man.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 38
P: Talk about Phil's illness.
G: Well, it's hard to talk about because it's hard to know where to stop and start. I
didn't realize it was going on until I got a call one day, and Bob and I were here,
and we got a call from a guy, I can't think of his name but I know he was the
President of Newsweek, and he wanted us to come over and see him. I think he
was at Miami Beach at some convention or something. We went over there and
he told us about what was going on with Phil. Back then we called it-we call it
bipolar now-but manic depressive. When he was in his mania stage, he could do
almost any damn thing and he would do it, like I told you about hitting the man.
You probably don't recall, but Kennedy made Phil chairman of the commission
they had to control space and all, the communications in space, and he hit a guy
in that. He could get out of control, but he knew all kinds of stuff. We were talking
about [George] McGovern [former South Dakota Governor, 1972 Democratic
presidential candidate] last night-the governor wanted him to buy the newspaper
out in South Dakota, it wasn't Rapid City, but it was at the other end of the state,
Sioux Falls. Phil went out there and he was going to do that. He had all kinds of
projects he was doing; he was going to form an associated press in Latin
America because they didn't have their own thing. He was in to everything and
just going like mad.
P: But then he would go into these fits of great depression.
G: Oh, terrible. I never saw that. Kay saw that and described it and she had to suffer
through that. I never saw that.
P: Did he ever get any medical treatment for the problem?
G: He was being treated by these psychiatrists, and one of the things, the
psychiatrists that were treating him did not believe in drugs. Phil, and Kay too,
were afraid of drugs. What's the name of the family in Chicago that had the
newspaper, the big family?
G: No, they have a department store.
G: Marshall Fields, third or fourth or something; one of them had some kind of drug
and shock therapy and ended up being a vegetable, and Phil didn't want to do
that. He was at an institution in Maryland, and I would go up there every week
and see him. I kind of inherited the job of cleaning up behind him a few places
and stuff. One day I'm going up there and the man who was secretary of state for
Nixon and then attorney general .... No. Anyway, they called me and said he
wanted to visit with me, and I went up there and he was urging him to get some
P: Oh, the attorney general you said.
G: Well, he had been the secretary of state when Kissinger just dominated so much.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 39
I'll think of him in a little bit. Anyway, so I went up there. Phil was up in Maryland
a little above Washington, and I normally just stayed at a motel, but that night I
stayed in a little hotel/motel in Washington just to see him. I get there and they
tell me that Phil could go out-it was the first time they were going to let him out of
the institution-and he wants to go out for dinner. I said, where do you want to
go? He said, I want to go to your room and have room service, so we drove down
and had room service. When he would go to the bathroom I would stand at the
door because there were razor blades in there and stuff, and I had read enough
to know that manic depressives are very dangerous when they've started
recovery. The guilt complex begins to overcome them and stuff. So a couple
days later he went out with Kay, and that's when he committed suicide.
P: Now at that point, were you aware that this obviously was a possibility, and the
doctors had told you to be very careful and watch him.
G: No, they hadn't told me that, but I was aware of that because I had consulted a
couple of psychiatrists myself, plus I'd read some books. I remember one of the
books stressed that the recovery phase-also, when they brought him back from
Phoenix, this was the kind of things he could do, when they got to Washington
they had these limousines they were going to take him to this institution, he
escaped. He got this limo driver to take him home. He rented this great big
house, it had been the Australian embassy, and hired Edward Bennett Williams,
who had been a very good friend of his. They used to go drink martinis together
down at the river and watch it and tell stories.
P: Williams was a lawyer and had owned the Redskins.
G: Yes, really street smart, but also a very prominent lawyer. They called me in
Phoenix and said I better come to Washington. So I went to Washington and
went out to this big old house where Phil was, and Edward Bennett Williams had
talked him into going back home with Kay that night, so he said he was going to
go back to the house. We went back out to the house and had dinner, and some
of the kids were there. I don't know who all was there, but Kay and some of the
kids. Their house was right across the street from a cemetery and a park, and we
walked over there and he cried about how he had ruined his life and all the
terrible things he had done and all this stuff, but I thought he had gotten over it.
We put him back in an institution, and I signed him in because they didn't want
Kay to be the one in case he got mad about that. We put him in an institution and
that's when he went up in Rockford, Maryland. He fell out of treatment.
P: At that point he went off by himself and just shot himself. Is that what happened?
G: No, he and Kay spent the day out at their farm in Virginia. They had this farm that
he loved, and she liked too, but he really loved it. They spent the whole day down
there, had a wonderful day, and he went in to take a shower or something and
unfortunately there was a shotgun in there with a shell in it or available or
something, and he just put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
P: He died instantaneously.
G: It had to be instantaneous.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 40
P: How would you assess his contribution to the industry, to the country, to the
courts, because he was involved in a lot of things in a short period of time.
G: Well, I'm very, very prejudiced. You have to understand that, but everything Phil
touched he would try to do good things with it. He was very rational and very
smart, and he influenced people tremendously because of the way he treated
them and the way his mind worked. I think he influenced everything for the good,
P: Let me get back now to your career, coming back and discussing what goes on
after you become de facto in charge of the dairy farm.
G: That would have probably been about 1952 or something like that, 1953 maybe.
P: So you're going to expand a little bit in terms of the beef cattle, and you get
involved with the state milk commission. Tell me what your attitude was toward
G: We had a state milk commission, as you say, and the milk commission was
getting in trouble. It was probably a bad idea. It was trying to control the price
from the farmer all the way to the customer. Milk is a unique product in the fact
that farmers can't store it, they can't do it. Back in the Depression, particularly in
the Midwest, they had some real battles about milk; they shot people and they
shot trucks and all this stuff. We evolved the idea of controlling the milk prices,
and there were two systems that developed. We had state commissions-I think
they had one in North Carolina, I know they had one in Florida, and they had one
in California and a couple other states. But then there was a federal milk program
that developed, and it only set the price at the farmer level, and it set it based on
some statistics and facts that were fairly good really. The milk commissions were
all over the waterfront and they were trying to control everything and stuff, and
when I first came back everybody was up in arms about that. I was very
P: Were the prices too low? Were they setting them too low?
G: No, I'm talking about the public, the idea that somebody was setting the price of
milk and stuff. The public was against the idea of setting prices.
P: They were against government regulation.
G: I was a proponent for the milk in the beginning because my Dad was and
everybody we knew was; we were proponents for the milk commission. There
was a candidate-I don't know if you ever heard of Brailey Odom-that ran for
governor, and almost got elected, fighting the milk commission. It became such a
big issue that he made a very strong run for governor; he came out of central
Florida somewhere, Sanford or somewhere.
Anyway, I actually used to go around and make speeches at civic clubs
defending the milk commission and the necessity of it and everything, and we
kept getting our nose butted. I finally came to the conclusion that it was just
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 41
causing a lot of problems, it wasn't helping us a bit, and that the possibility of
looking at the federal program [might be a good idea]. So I went with Pat to
Washington, and we went over to the Department of Agriculture and met with
their top people to see what you have to do to get a federal milk order, and it's
fairly complicated. You have to have a bonafide co-op, they have co-op laws that
accept federal laws, and you have to have a lot of preparation and stuff. So I
came back down to Florida-and we had a very sketchy little dairy organization-
and I start organizing the Dairy Farmer's Organization. We put together what we
called then, independent dairy farmers, and we got together. In 1960, 1950
something, maybe 1956, we had a real shortage of milk here in South Florida,
which we do in August almost every year, but the man who ran Borden's Dairy,
who was not a very bright guy, just cut everybody's price four cents a gallon. The
dairy farmers were already in dire straits, so we were able to go around and get
them all together, and we got everybody to agree that if our milk was cut off, we
would receive a fund from the others, but everybody would give four or five cents
a gallon of our milk to pay for that thing. I was able to put together most of the
So we then learned through the National Milk Producing Federation how you
legally do this, and we got a lawyer down here so we didn't violate any laws, and
we sent him a registered telegram to raise the price of milk. We raised it back up
four cents a gallon; well, the distributors just went bananas, but the farmers loved
it. They had never done anything in the history like that, so that was the
beginning of the Independent Dairy Farmers. Then we started the process to get
a federal order, which the dealers didn't want either, and we hired a man from
Cornell University, who was one of the best milk marketers in the world, Dr.
Leland Spencer. He worked with us for a year; we had to put all this preparation
together. Then we had a hearing in Ft. Lauderdale that lasted twelve days, and
we got the first federal order program in the state of Florida, the first one in the
South I think, and it's now grown all over the South. If you sell milk you don't
know what you're going to get for it, it's what the dealer does with it. They have
different classes of milk; the milk that goes in fluid milk is the top price, if it goes
in cottage cheese it's a low price, or butter or ice cream or something like that-so
you don't know what you're getting for it, and they can lie to you. We didn't have
any way of knowing what they were doing. The federal order program, they come
in and do their own accounting and check and make everybody pay legitimately.
Now the Dairy Farmer's of the Southeast, I think, handle $300 million worth of
milk or something.
P: How many dairy farmers were in the state at that time? Was it a fairly large
G: No. I don't know about the state, but in Southeast Florida, which is where we
were operating, there were like seventy-five to 100 farmers. But these are big
farmers, that's another thing. A lot of them owed money to the dealers; in other
words they would borrow money to buy cows and stuff, so they were almost
subversive to them. Some of them wouldn't come to a meeting because they
were afraid the dealer would cut them off or something. But that was very
successful when we got the Integrated Dairy Farmers going.
P: Now eventually the state milk commission is done away with?
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 42
G: The farmers could petition to abolish it, and we did, which shocked everybody
because everybody thought we were in love with it. That got a lot of attention
when we petitioned to abolish the state milk commission.
P: What that meant essentially, now that you had your own association, you had a
lot more control over the prices.
G: Now the price is all negotiated, but with this accounting you can do that. If you
don't have the accounting, there's so many ways you can cheat.
P: I guess this is what's called a federal milk marketing order, and before that, my
guess based on what you told me, it was pretty chaotic.
G: It was.
P: Nobody knew, basically, about prices, distribution.
G: The dealers would come up with new ideas. They would come up with it and they
would put it on your paycheck, and then it would have down there some milk that
is four or five cents a gallon less, and they would call it out of area milk. They
said that's milk they sent to Ft. Meyers or some place. That's not the way it's
supposed to work.
P: Now one of the things you're going to do, you were president of the IDFFA for
five years. One of the things you're going to do, and I have no idea what this
means, is pipeline milking. Can you explain that to me?
G: Well, you remember I told you originally that we used to have a guy that milked
thirty-five cows by hand. Then we went to milking machines, and you would hang
a milking machine under a cow and put the cups on their tits, and then when they
got all the milk you would take the cups off. You would take this milking machine
and go behind the cow and dump it in a big ten gallon milk can, then that can
would get wheeled into the cooler room and dumped into a cooler, it would go
over a cooler board and go in the milk plant. Pipeline milking-the milk right from
the cow into the pipeline, and then nobody had to do all that.
P: Nobody had to touch it really. What about a herringbone milking parlor?
G: I told you about the man in Minnesota that I got to know, Dr. Peterson. New
Zealand, for one reason or another, has been a real leader in dairy products.
P: They have great butter.
G: They have done a great job. Anyway, we used to milk what we called flat barns,
and that's where you had the cows in stances all like this, and to milk them you
had to get down under the head and they would kick you and slap you in the
head and all this stuff. They came up with the idea in New Zealand of putting
them in a herringbone parlor, and they would come in, and they would go in the
parlor like this so the legs were back here. Do you see what I'm trying to say? In
other words, if the cow comes in like this, and another cow is like this, and then
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 43
over here, that's a herringbone, see? So the udders are back here and the
people are working in a pit; they are not bending over, they're just working at
chest level. It changes that. The cows are not confined, they are just eating out of
a trough up here.
P: Right, and the farmers are less likely to get kicked.
G: Me and another good friend of mine, Dick Dressell, put the first two parlors in
P: That is a lot more efficient?
G: Everybody is using them now.
P: What was the future at that time of the dairy industry? Did you see that this was
going to continue to grow and you were going to expand?
G: Well, we're unique in that we have a wonderful market. Milk is a product, as I
mentioned earlier, that is different than a lot of products-you can't store it for two
weeks and then bring it here. If you bring milk here from Wisconsin, for instance,
you've got to truck it, and if something happens to the truck or something .... So
the dealers don't like to depend on that, they like to have a local supply of milk.
When you add the cost of transporting it down from Wisconsin, they can produce
milk cheaper than we can, but when you add the cost of transportation and
handling, in other words if they get it from a farmer they have to take it to the
plant and cool it and then put it in a tank and haul it down here, that makes it so
we can be competitive. We have this tremendous growth market because of the
P: Eventually you are going to shift the dairy farm away from Miami Lakes, and
where do you put that?
G: It's in Moorehaven, Florida.
P: Why did you make that decision?
G: Well, we were using up the land in Miami Lakes, and Moorehaven came about
kind of as a fluke. Bob Graham was going to law school at Harvard and on
February, I don't even remember what year it was now, we went up to go skiing
with him up in New Hampshire. We were going to fly up but one of our friends,
who was a captain with Eastern Airlines, he was called from dinner to the phone
and he came back and said, Bill, if you want to go to New England this week you
better get a train reservation because we're all going on strike. So we got a train
reservation. I got on a train with the Miami Herald-in those days I used to like to
read the want ad section and the land for sale and all this stuff, and I see this
"land for sale." It was a trade-the guy wanted to trade rock land in Dade County
for this Moorehaven ranch. Well, I had a fellow working for me who had grown up
in La Belle and knew that country real well, so when I got to Boston I called him. I
said, Floyd, go over there and look at that and see what you think of it. He came
and said, that's a great place. So I got with him and we made a trade, and we
actually ended up with a five-way trade because of things we had to do. We
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 44
traded Moorehaven for some rock land, we didn't know what we were going to do
with it then, but we had a nice ranch. It didn't have any cows on it, but we bought
some beef cows and put on it. Then as we had to move, we saw we could move
some dairies to Moorehaven, and that's what we did.
P: Then that freed up this land.
G: We had to get out of here because we were getting ready to build houses.
P: Also, you were known as one of the nation's best breeders for Angus cattle. I
guess to be a good breeder you have to keep a lot of statistics.
G: You may be exaggerating being one of the best, but we have a pretty good cow
herd. Yes, it's all statistical now and you have to do things, and we weigh them
time and time again, we ultrasound them to evaluate their meat; we do all kinds
of things to them.
P: Do you use hormones?
P: What do you think, just out of curiosity, about cloning?
G: I haven't thought a lot about it and I'm not really excited about it. I have no
interest in doing it or anything. You know one thing people don't realize, even
though you clone an animal it's not exactly the same as the other animal. It's
close, but they're not exactly the same. Of course, the artificial breeding was a
tremendous bump because we could use the top bull, and then we would use
embryo transplants where the cow and the bull is put into a recipient cow that
P: So the quality of the beef is much, much better.
G: Well, I think it is, but at the same time you really get back to that old beef cow's
advantage, she takes care of herself. If you take a dairy cow, you have to feed
her and milk her and all this stuff; a beef cow, you put her out on a ranch or a
farm and so on and she takes care of herself. Some of these people have gotten
so far away from that, that the cost if you do an embryo transplant and all this
stuff, the labor cost gets horrendous.
P: A lot of them have changed the feeding and the quality of the feed and the type
of the feed.
G: That's a science now that they really know what they're doing.
P: Yes, it's very different.
G: And arguing about hormones-of course, I'm familiar with the arguments-
scientifically nobody has ever been able to prove they cause any problems. I've
always kind of wondered, you know, if the beef people didn't do that there
wouldn't be as much beef and the prices might be higher; maybe it's eternal, I
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 45
P: What would happen if we had a case of mad cow's disease in this country?
G: Well, we've had a case.
P: It was limited; not like England had, at least.
G: No, but we've had a case. That's the thing, mad cow disease is not contagious, it
comes by what the cow eats. Now, with all the prohibitions that we've put in, it
would be highly unlikely, and we certainly wouldn't have what they had in
England where they had several cases. Even in England though, the number of
people that have suffered mad cow disease is nothing compared to how many
get run over on Park Lane crossing the street every year. Seriously. It's more
exciting to talk about mad cow disease. We were over there when it was really
hot, and we had a little restaurant we used to like to go to that served beef. They
would put a little heat thing on your table to cook it in, and it was really killing their
business, and man, we were eating that beef like mad. I wasn't worried about it.
P: That's the whole thing, the perception, if it gets in the paper.
G: Sure, mad cow sounds so bad, and then they show that cow staggering.
P: That will hurt business, won't it. Your father, I guess, spent a lot of his time after
the mid-1950s in Albany?
P: What was that ranch for, you had some peanuts? What else?
G: No. That came about as kind of a fluke too. My Dad, as I said, went to the
Michigan School of Mines. One of his classmates had gone to Minnesota and
gotten in the iron mining business and made quite a bit of money. He was
actually my godfather, but Mr. McKillikan called Dad one day, and he had a
daughter who married a young man, and they wanted to be cowboys. They had
bought a ranch out in Wyoming but it was a ranch that had twelve bedrooms and
about two hundred acres in Wyoming; well, that's not going to feed anybody. But
they had read that Florida was a big ranch state. There was a rumor running
around one time that Florida was the third largest ranch state in the union. They
left out the fact that it was the third largest east of the Mississippi River, but that's
just the funny thing. Anyway, he wrote Dad and wanted to come look at some
ranches. At that time Dad was active in politics and he had been active in the
Cattlemen's Association and all that, so he set up a tour for them. They flew to
Miami and they went up through Florida, spent a couple days, and ended in
Albany. The phone rings and I pick it up and he says, I want you to get on a
plane and come up the next morning. Back in those days Eastern Airlines flew a
plane that went through Albany. I said, why? He said, just come up and I'll show
you. Mr. McKillikan hadn't bought anything, but Dad had bought 1,200 acres of
land up there, and that's how we got started in Albany, Georgia. He had no
reason to do it and it was land that they had been sharecropping and stuff and it
had very little pasture on it. We had to fence it and do things. We used it first to
raise some dairy heifers.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 46
P: But there were some beef cattle out there, right?
G: We didn't have any on there then.
P: That was later?
G: Yeah, it was later, and then we added land. He later bought, in 1960, 3,300 acres
that had pecans on it too. We've got about 9,500 acres of pecans there now.
Then I bought a 2,000-acre piece, then I bought another 4,800-acre piece. We've
got it all together except the pecan thing is off by itself.
P: How many acres now?
G: We've got 8,000, and another 2,000 or so down at the other place.
P: So around 10,000 acres.
G: We grow a lot of timber too; we grow pine trees and that sort of thing.
P: Do you spend much time at that farm?
G: I was spending a week a month until my wife had the stroke, and that's kind of
disrupted our life a little bit. Then two or three years ago I was diagnosed with
multiple myeloma, so that restricted some things too. I'm getting to the age where
it seems like something happens all the time; I had to have my gall bladder out
here two or three weeks ago.
P: I know, I told Steve you look real good for just having your gall bladder out.
G: I feel great. I've got a cataract on my eye I've got to get off; there's just
something all the time you have to do. But I would like to spend [more time
there]; we're going up there Friday to spend a week, and I was up there
doing work and stuff. I've got a son-in-law who started Shula's steak houses and
he's done real well, he's got about twenty-eight of them around the United
States, and he's fallen in love with Albany. He's gotten into spotted gaited
horses, which he loves, and they are beautiful. He's having a ball with that up
there, and that's nice because his wife, my oldest daughter, has always loved
horses and never really had a chance to [have them]. We used to have a riding
academy here at Miami Lakes when they were children, but after that we didn't
P: Your father has a stroke and dies in March, 1960, is that right?
P: How did that change the Graham family, the Graham Industries?
G: By then it didn't change it any. He had been sick; he may have first started
having that stroke about 1960, or even before maybe, but by then he had
become pretty definitely incapacitated in every way.
P: When did you get the idea, and who got the idea, for developing Miami Lakes?
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 47
G: I got the idea for developing Miami Lakes, and it happened through a series of
things. I told you, Pat was a journalism graduate and she was a member of a
ladies' journalism honor society or fraternity, and they used to meet with the men
of Sigma Delta Chi. The real estate editor of the Miami Herald, his wife was a
particularly good friend of ours, and he was a fairly good friend. In fact, every
time I would see him he would say, Bill, you ought not sell that land, you ought to
make it one community. Then I read a book called Organization Man, which was
P: By White.
G: Yes. It was about the development of Park Forest up in Illinois, which is farm
land. Then I went out to Miami, Oklahoma, and bought some Angus cattle. We
went up to Kansas City, [Missouri], because Pat and I had spent some time there
and we liked Kansas City. I was standing in the cashier line of the Mulebach
Hotel to cash a check and a guy tapped me on the shoulder; it was one of my old
high school basketball mates. He lived out there and he was the district sales
manager for some soap and toothpaste thing, insisted we go out to the house for
dinner, and we were exposed to the JC Nichols Company development. You're
familiar with Kansas City? They did Country Club Plaza and they developed all
that area out there, which is a beautiful area. I got excited about the possibility
we had of doing something. We actually have a Christmas light festival copied
after what they do, we put lights out and stuff, but that's how we got the idea.
P: Then you came back here, and what steps did you take to start developing this
G: Well, the first thing I did, I went to Phil and talked to him about it. He was excited
about it and encouraged me, and he actually got in touch with the financial
people who had done Park Forest. They told him the site planner they had used,
a man named Albert Peets. It turned out that Mr. Peets was about eighty-five or
eighty-six years old and had become a recluse who lived on the top of a
penthouse in an area of Washington that had gone completely black. But he lived
up on top of this penthouse, and it took Phil two weeks to get him on the phone.
He said he was too old to do this, but if we hired this young man, he would
consult. Well, the young man turned out to be Lester Collins, who lived about
three blocks from Phil in Georgetown. Both of us liked Lester very much when we
met him, so we started talking with him about doing that. Then we put together a
company; we called it Sengra, Senator Graham for my Dad. We put together this
company, and originally it was the Graham Brothers Rock Company. Dad had
gotten in a fight with a guy here about digging holes, and he went out and bought
two drag lines and he hired this old fellow who had run a drag line for him in
World War I, and they were digging holes and selling dirt. That was the shell that
we used, and then we changed the name to Sengra. Then we expanded the
stockholders-it was originally just Bob and Phil and I-and then we expanded the
stockholders to some other people, not too many.
P: This would have been 1960-what?
G: No, this would be 1950-something. The first checks that I've got in my office were
done in 1958, so this would be 1957 or 1958 or something like that. We started,
we had some land in Hialeah, across the road from us, so we built 254 homes
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 48
down there and we developed twenty acres of industrial; that was our education
about what to do. We didn't know a damn thing about doing it, but then we
learned, and we learned some good things and bad things. We put the first
residential sewers in Hialeah. We wanted to get FHA [Federal Housing
Administration] and they hadn't had that. Then we were working on Miami Lakes
all this time and Phil got very excited about it and Mary was supportive, she had
some land out here, and Graham Dairy's had land. We had two companies for
awhile, Graham's Dairy, which was the dairy, and then Sengra, then we put them
all together and just called them Graham Companies.
P: And John Simons, what did he have to do with all of this?
G: He was an associate of Lester Collins.
P: They are the ones that designed the whole concept?
G: Primarily Lester. Lester worked out of his home in Georgetown and he only did
the things he liked to do-he worked for the Smithsonian, he worked for the
Washington Zoo, but he worked great for us. He'd come here every month,
whether he was doing anything or not, to come and kind of look at what was
going on and critique and give us ideas and stuff.
P: When you started out, you decided, I guess, the way to do it initially was single
G: That's what we started with, right.
P: Then you're going to develop the town concept. How did you segue from just
building these homes into the whole planned community?
G: Well, while we were doing Palm Lake, Lester drew this plan. You've seen the
plan, it's a conch shell thing and all this. The first plan he drew was a river plan, I
don't know if you've seen that yet, it's in my office, but it's a river plan. The
problem with the river plan, we're so flat, stuff doesn't flow. Just northeast of us is
Carol City, and they had canals, and they became garbage dumps; people just
threw stuff in them and all that, so we didn't want any rivers and stuff. We sent
him back and he did the lakes, and he came back with the lakes one, which was
basically the same components as he had in the other plan. He put it all together,
brought it to us, showed it to us, and we got excited about it. After we got the
engineers settled down-they got all upset about all these crazy directions the
roads went and everything. We went down to the zoning board one time with
Lester and there was a lady there who was one of these no knock on no-no
ladies-they don't ever tell people how to do things good, they just tell you what
you can't do-and she said, I'm sure glad I got to see that crazy S.O.B., I
wondered who the nut was that drew this thing. It's kind of a unique plan, it
P: All of the lakes are artificial, and the idea was to design the roads to go around
G: Actually, they designed the roads and then put the lakes in. We visited new
towns in Europe, both Bob and I and our wives. I've gone to several of them in
England and Scotland, and then we went to Stockholm and Helsinki. The new
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 49
town movement became popular after World War II in Europe, a lot of it to just
move people out of the city, although in Stockholm that wasn't the idea, and we
didn't have that idea. We were part of greater Miami and we recognized that.
P: The idea was to create a community where people could live and they would
have schools and they have recreation and jobs, and it's walkable.
G: Like I do, I live across the street over here. I used to say it took me a minute and
forty-five seconds to get to my desk.
P: You started building in 1961?
G: We built in Hialeah first; we started up here, we opened the models July 22,
P: And at that point there were just a few models, right?
P: Somebody said you had to put in a big fence.
G: We put a fence in so they couldn't see how far they were out in the country.
P: How did it go in the beginning? Were people enthusiastic about it?
G: People were enthusiastic, but we got hit pretty hard in the very beginning, that's
when the missile crisis came along. South Florida, particularly the Opa Locka
airport area looked like a military base. We had people who had actually put
money down in contracts that left and went to Missouri or someplace. That put a
real damper on things. That was the fall of 1962 and then the spring of 1963.
1963 was a terrible year; that was the year Phil committed suicide, that was the
year Kennedy was assassinated, and our business was in terrible shape.
Someway, and I don't know how we did this now, we must have been crazy, but
Pat and I went to Japan and Hong Kong for three weeks, and when I came back
we were losing so much money I had to lay off a third of our people and I had to
cut everybody's salaries 15 percent. We had to revamp and look around and see
what we could do, and the one thing we did was we got into townhouses. We
hadn't done townhouses because nobody had done townhouses. It wasn't until a
couple of years later when we really got to selling some townhouses that we
really made any money at all. Phil had gotten us a big loan with Prudential
Insurance Company because he had done a lot of work them, and I just knew I'd
blown the whole farm for everybody because it didn't look very good for awhile.
P: What did you sell the first houses for, and what kind of design were they?
G: The price range would run from about $14,000 to $18,000.
P: How big were they in square feet?
G: I can't tell you the square footage.
P: Were these designed by the local architects?
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 50
G: They were done by the local architects; there was nothing fancy about the
architecture. Incidentally, those same houses now sell for $200,000 or $300,000
or more; it's unbelievable.
P: When did you actually complete the first part of what we now know as Miami
Lakes Town Center?
G: That would have been in the early 1980s. We purposely stayed out of the town
centers so we didn't do something that was going to fall on its face; we wanted
some population around it.
P: You wanted to get the population in first, then build the town centers.
G: We did community shopping centers, we've got five of them, neighborhood
shopping centers. They have all been very successful. We did those, and that
was good, but then we stayed out of the town center.
P: Then you did an industrial park. Was that early on?
G: Yes, that was the beginning. Some of the first stuff we did was industrial. You
see, we're next to Opa Locka Airport, and we wanted a buffer between that
anyway, so we started over there and did that.
P: When you start that, how do you attract people to come into a brand new
G: Well, several ways. At the time, Dade County had what they called an Economic
Development Committee, and they had a staff of people and stuff. We worked
very closely with them, and they were very pleased to have a park like us to bring
people to, so that was helpful. Then, we just used real estate agents.
P: What were some of your early tenants?
G: The first tenant we had was Wilson Sporting Goods.
P: Which is a big company.
G: Yes. Another one of the early ones was a company called Copistatics, and they
made computers or printers, I forget which they did. One time we had a big pool
table manufacturing company. In fact, they had Willie Mosconi, the great pool
shot. Anyway, one night over in our country club they had a big dinner and they
had a big pool table set up in the middle of the dining room. He would set the
balls up-and I didn't know they were going to do this to me-they called me up
and he had the balls all set up and he told me, just hit that, I hit that one and the
ball went in every pocket. [His last name is] Mosconi or something like that.
P: Yes, I think that it is Willie Mosconi.
G: Maybe, I don't know, but anyway, they were there. Then we had Suave Shoe,
which is a company out of Cuba, that manufactured plastic shoes, cheap, knock-
off shoes. We had a number of clothing fabric people back then; they're all gone
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 51
now, but we did plastics.
P: I guess one of the real keys to the success of Miami Lakes was the opening of
the Sawgrass Expressway.
G: No, I don't think it's Sawgrass, Palmetto maybe.
P: Yes, Palmetto, sorry.
G: We wouldn't have done it if it hadn't been for Palmetto.
P: They would have come through right before you started.
G: That motivated us to start.
P: So the access was much better than it had been previously, right?
G: We have tremendous access now, yeah, except we got so damn many cars you
can't go anywhere.
P: One of the things you did, which I thought was interesting, from the very
beginning, you put in a lot of trees. That looked like that was a specific design,
because it looks nice, it saves energy, there are a lot of good reasons for doing
G: People like trees; right now they don't like them because they have to clean up
P: I was going to say, it was a good idea until you have a hurricane.
G: That's right.
P: Now when you look back on Miami Lakes, what do you think were the reasons
that it became successful? Partly we've already talked about the fact that you got
an expressway, but what is it that made it successful?
G: I really think that the planning had a lot to do with it. In the very beginning, I told
you, we had pretty inexpensive homes, and we attracted a group of people. We
attracted a lot of teachers, people who don't make a lot of money but want a little
nicer neighborhood to live in, and some young people just starting out in life.
Another thing, we're in the poor end of the county; every big city has a good side
and a bad side-we're the bad side. All around us we're surrounded by low
income areas, but in those low income areas there are young managers, young
owners of companies and stuff, that are looking for a better place to live than
where they are living. If they can find it close by they like that because they're
already established in their business and stuff there, and so we got some of that
P: I was astonished to read that the average age of the people living in Miami Lakes
today is thirty-three years.
G: Is that low or high for you?
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 52
P: That's very low.
G: This is a very active community.
P: You would think, though, there would be a lot of retirees here.
G: We've never been a retirement place. The only retirees we have are parents of
young couples that live here. We've never tried; we didn't want to be retirement
P: That's what I'm saying, the whole concept from the beginning.
G: No, it's an active community.
[End Tape B, Side 1.]
P: One of the things you tried to do is to sort of blend into the environment. You
didn't want to dominate it; you wanted to blend in and you wanted people to feel
comfortable in their surroundings. Maybe that's a factor, because if you look at all
these strip malls ...
G: Well, I think so, and also, if you go around Miami Lakes, you will see top-notch
parks all over the community. We sacrificed lots to put little parks in, but it opens
up. Even for people driving in a car, it's more pleasant than if you're just going
down nothing but buildings and stuff. Many of our lakes have little beaches for
people that live in dry lots and can't get to the water so they can come and enjoy
P: Do you have what one might call low-cost housing, or do you look at the whole
complex as being what we call reasonably priced?
G: Well, it's reasonable, but you have to remember too, we're surrounded by really
low-cost housing; Carol City, up to the north of us, Hialeah. What we really did,
we raised the level of housing and the socioeconomic level, which is good for the
schools and everything else, it's a better mix.
P: That's another thing, you had room for schools, parks.
G: One of Bob's first jobs to do for us was to go meet with the school people and
decide what size tracts they needed and how many they needed for the schools.
He did the same thing with the churches; he went to the Council of Churches and
met with them, and went to the Catholics and the Jews. The Jews didn't want to
buy any land.
P: I think you've got, I forget how many, but something like five schools here.
You've got a Montessori School, just about every church imaginable.
G: Like the Catholic school here.
P: Just about every church you could think of.
G: They sized the lots for the churches, depending upon the church, what they said
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 53
P: How much work did Bob do with the organization of all this?
G: Well, he was going to law school when we started all this. He came out, I think, in
1962, just as we opened the models, and he worked with us. I want to say he
went in the legislature in 1966 or 1964, something like that. So as he got in the
legislature, he would get more and more into politics; he was working with us, but
he went into politics more.
P: There's now this thing Andres Duany called "new urbanism." Do you consider
yourself part of that movement? It's a little different from what they call the new
town movement, but still a similar concept.
G: I have a little difficulty understanding exactly what they're talking about even, but
my one criticism of them is they want to absolutely neglect the automobile. The
automobile is a very big part of the American life right now, and we didn't do that,
we provided for the automobile. They talk about people walking down the street; I
don't know how much of that they can do of any size, and they haven't done
much of any size. They've gotten a lot of publicity. I've been to the one up in
Disneyland and Bayside.
P: Centennial? What do you think of Centennial?
G: I think it has some nice things, but I think it has some limitations too.
P: The downtown in Centennial never has worked really well. A lot of the early
shops had to close up.
G: Of course, downtown have a tough time; we have a tough time too, it isn't easy.
We provide the place for people where you can use car, but you don't have to
use your car.
P: I notice you provide a lot of parking spaces behind buildings.
G: We try to do that. We had one little shopping center that doesn't have a behind,
we built it all the way around like a donut, and all the service is going inside. It
was backing up on some villas and townhouses. I'm not sure, I don't know what
our relationship to them [is] or not, but we proceeded them in whatever we did.
Of course, we looked at all the new towns in the states- Reston, [Virginia], and
Columbia, Maryland, and places like that.
P: So you took a little bit from everything?
G: Actually, again, Lester actually did most of the site planning except that we would
knock down some of what he said; he did a whale of a job for us I think. I've lived
in, let's see, that's the fourth place in Miami Lakes that I've lived in. I lived in
some little apartments when we first came out here when we sold our house
before we thought we would. Then I lived in a big house we had up in Loch
Lomond; we sold that. Then we lived in some townhouses while we got where we
were living, we were laying down a three story townhouse across the street.
Miami Lakes works pretty well. You can talk to most of the people out here, they
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 54
like it and they think it does.
P: I notice that in Haile Plantation, which is part of this new urbanism in Gainesville,
they thought they could do this interconnected walking area, but it's turned out it
doesn't work like that because everybody gets in their car and drives down.
G: That's what I'm saying. The designers don't like cars, but the fact of the matter is
the American public likes cars. We have a flat in London, we've spent quite a bit
of time in London in the last few years, and we walk everywhere because cars
are a nuisance and you don't want to use a car.
P: But we don't have the transportation infrastructure in America.
G: But even there, we walk-for instance, we're out on Park Lane, but we can go
from there and actually walk to the theater. We did that. We would walk further
there, we get here and drive the car the same distance. Of course, the climate
here isn't as nice about walking either when you're cool and it's a lot nicer to
walk. But this idea you're going to get people walking everywhere or riding [a
bike]; we got into the bicycle thing. I got big on bicycle paths and I went out to
Davis in California, which has got a great bicycle system, and looked at it. In our
town center, you probably don't even see it, but on one side of the street the
sidewalk is extra wide, and that was to be a bike path. We tried to get the county
to let us use a different material so it would say this is a bike way and this is the
walkway, but we couldn't get them to do it, it was one of those no-no people. But
we don't get a lot of people riding bikes or walking. You get some here in the
town center, I mean, where I live, a lot of people from these apartments. That's
what we did, we ringed the apartments around the town center; we saw that in
Stockholm what they did. In Stockholm, their thing is part of the whole town that
they have a train service from the downtown, but when they get out to the area
they've got these apartments going around the shopping center and stuff like
that. What we tried to do, if you'll look at the apartments around, and a lot of the
apartment people walk to the town center and stuff, but you don't have
thousands of people doing that; it's a nice theory.
P: When did Miami Lakes become incorporated?
G: I can't tell you the exact date, it was two or three years ago.
P: Had you not wanted that earlier?
G: In the very beginning, when we started Miami Lakes, the movement was afoot in
Dade County, and we thought it was a good movement, to have a metropolitan
government, and not have so many little towns. For various political reasons, that
has not worked, so now we're going back to towns. We had a big flush of these
little towns come up here in the last few years, and I don't know how many, but
an awful lot of them. I'm not sure that's a great thing for the future, but the idea
originally was to have this metropolitan government and then they would have
P: Has it worked pretty well for Miami Lakes so far?
G: I think it's worked great, and Stu and B and all of them are very supportive of it. I
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 55
was not involved much with it, but they have been, and I think they've done a
very fine job so far. They did a great job with this hurricane clean up; Miami
Lakes is probably as cleaned up as any place you'll find.
P: I read that, it's cleaned up quicker than anybody else.
G: We've got a piece of land that didn't develop on the west side, they've got a
mountain of stuff over there; they're over there chipping it up and stuff.
P: So Miami Lakes has their own police, fire, and everything?
G: They did a smart thing with the police, they don't have their own police. They
contracted with the county police, which is a very good professional force, and so
the policemen that are here in Miami Lakes are really Metropolitan Dade County
Police, but they are assigned to Miami Lakes. The cars will say on them,
Metropolitan Dade County Town of Miami Lakes. Now, I'll bet you anything within
not too many years the town council will want to have their own police force.
P: That seems like a good way to do it though, they're already professionals.
G: Oh, and you've got a whole resource to back you. I mean, suppose we have a
homicide, you've got everything here. They're right here in Miami Lakes too, the
substation is over here.
P: You also have a business park, Business Park West, and how has that done?
G: It's done very well. We used to call them industrial parks, now we call them
business parks; everything changes names. Business Park East is pretty well
completed; Business Park West is on the other side of the expressway, and it's
still growing. We have Governor's Square office buildings over there, and that's
where we have Governor Bob Graham Parkway that leads up to that. Bob got to
name them, and the first one was Andrew Jackson, because he was the first
territorial governor, and the next one was Spessard Holland, and then LeRoy
Collins is coming next.
P: So you're still expanding.
G: Oh yes, we've still got some land over there to build some buildings.
P: But that's going to be mainly office buildings?
G: That's offices pretty much.
P: Are you going to do any more residential?
G: We have one little piece over there that my youngest daughter-she and her
husband run our apartments, and they want to do an adult, by that I mean old
people, section. It's not assisted living, but she says these things are very
popular and that it's a service we need probably. That's about all the residential
we have left.
P: How has the retail done in the town center?
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 56
G: So-so. You get some things that are quite successful, and then others struggle.
P: I noticed, interestingly enough, Victoria's Secret has a huge store.
G: They've done well. I would never have thought they could make it.
P: That was not something I was expecting in Miami Lakes.
G: It absolutely amazes me, to be honest about it. We've had a couple of
unfortunate things happen. We had a wonderful kitchen store, but the man and
wife ended up in a divorce. Then we had a wonderful kind of antique store, and
they had the same thing happen. Some things kill you that you don't expect.
P: How do the restaurants do?
G: The restaurants do pretty well. On the town center we've got the Thai restaurant
right down here, and they do very well; it's a little family restaurant that does well.
We've got a Nicaraguan steak house over around the corner that does well. Then
we've got Johnny Rockets, which is a hamburger place and stuff; they do all
right. Then Little Italy down the street a little bit further, Italy Today I guess the
name of it is, and that's the same guy who has a Mexican restaurant on the other
side. He knows how to run a restaurant. We've got an Italian restaurant across
P: Tony Roma's?
P: You've got a Tony Roma's don't you?
G: Tony Roma's, that's across the circle there; that's a rib restaurant, and they've
done very well. But across Ludlam we've got an Italian, Boca de Beppo or
something like that, I can't remember. Then Ruby Tuesday's is getting ready to
open over there. We've got a chicken place over there. Coming up this side
we've got Tony Roma's, and then we've got our own restaurants over here.
P: How has the hotel done?
G: The hotel struggles. It was starting to do all right, and then 9/11 came along and
really killed it. Business people quit traveling because the businesses learned
they didn't have to travel as much; they're coming back some, but it's been
P: So at this point you are, except for perhaps a retirement place and more office
space, you're pretty well done with Miami Lakes?
G: Not entirely; over in the town center we've got some more apartment land-not a
big piece, but we've got some-and we've got a couple other places we can put a
few apartments. Our apartments are doing fantastic. We've got 1,500 or 1,600 of
them, and every one of them is rented; people are standing in line to get them.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 57
Dade County has had so many conversions from rental apartments to
condominiums, they just shrunk the market. You can't get an apartment to rent,
and I don't know what's going to help.
P: Let me mention some of the awards you've gotten and just get your reaction to
them. In 1962, you got an interesting one, Dade County War Against Crime; you
were on that committee.
G: Yes, we were involved with that.
P: What was going on in that particular case?
G: I would have to go back, but I know I got involved in it. I think we were all
concerned about just small crimes that were going on around the county. They
started getting all these people into crime watch, and I had a daughter that got
very involved in that. It's frustrating, we still get people knocking off cars or stuff,
and it just drives you out of your mind.
P: But this would be a fairly safe area, Miami Lakes?
G: It's a very safe area, really.
P: I noticed that you are a member of the Historical Association of Southern Florida.
P: I'm glad to see that support.
G: We've always been involved with them.
P: They've done quite well.
G: I served on their board way back for awhile. They've got a nice museum, and
they had a wonderful director. Now the new man I'm sure is good too, but the
one before him did a super job.
P: Yes, I thought so too. The museum is quite good.
G: I think it is, too.
P: You were a board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce, the bank, Transit
Authority, so you have been involved in a lot of activities. Do you see for yourself
that sort of responsibility that you have as a public service?
P: Do you enjoy these kinds of activities?
G: I did mainly, and I learned things all the time. I served on the zoning board. I lived
in Miami Springs for about seventeen to nineteen years, and I served on the
zoning board there; that helped me learn things about Miami Lakes, because you
see the problems that come up in a little town.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 58
P: Were you involved at all when they were going to build a jetport? What was your
view on that?
G: We were opposed to it. Well, wait, when you say jetport, what are you talking
P: The jetport to the Everglades.
G: The one they built?
P: Well, actually they did build a couple of runways.
G: Yeah, the one they built. We didn't really have anything against it. They built it,
but then while they were building and got it built, they changed the training from
airplanes to simulators, so the jetport doesn't get used much. I flew for thirty-
seven years privately.
P: That's what I was asking.
G: We used to practice approaches out there.
P: At one time, later on, they were going to move Miami International.
G: That was site fourteen, that was a different location; we opposed that for a lot of
reasons. That was just west of us, but secondly, they were going to put these
people out here and how they were going to move them around when they got
them there. One great thing about Miami International, it's inside and close in
where people can get around. They're now working on some rail and stuff. But to
move it out without any real consideration of what to do.
P: There's almost going to have to be some high speed rail in there.
G: It would be a different kind of thing-I don't know what it will be-but certainly
P: At least light rail or something. I understand you're a big badminton player.
G: I used to be, I can't play now.
P: That's a very tricky game to play.
G: It's a fun game to play. You know you mentioned Davidson; the last time I was at
Davidson I played in a badminton tournament up there. We have a Southern
Badminton Association, and there was a crew up in Davidson that played and we
played up there.
P: I used to play tennis, and a friend of mine who is not a very good tennis player,
not a very good athlete, could always beat me in badminton because he had
G: It's a game that not too many Americans really know, and in fact, I'll tell you a
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 59
story. When I was in Okinawa, I read in the Stars and Stripes one day they were
having a badminton championship for Okinawa. The brass, after the war, decided
they needed to do something to occupy the troops, so they were going to have a
Pacific Olympics in the military. So I went down and got in the tournament; I won
the tournament because nobody else knew much about it, and they took me
down to Manila and I played in this international tournament. I won the first
match, but the second match I had to play the Filipino national champion. He was
a little guy that could run forever, and the birds were slow, and nothing could hit
the floor on his side of the court, you know, so that ended my badminton career.
P: You've got to be quick.
G: I've had a lot of fun with badminton. I played badminton in England and I played
badminton in Canada. I had for a while, here a few years ago, and this is when
we were old, but I had a partner who had been the English number one for about
thirteen years. We went up and played in the Canadian tournament and we were
runner-up in our division and we won eight out of ten matches we played. He was
good. It's fun playing with people.
P: Are you still active in the Rotary Club?
G: No, I haven't been in Rotary in a long time.
P: You've been involved with University of Miami on the board of trustees.
G: For a very short time I was on the board of trustees, yeah. We contributed money
to them, that's why.
P: How do you see that university now?
G: I think they're doing great. I really think the world of the president. I think she's
done a super job.
P: Donna Shalala; I think they were lucky to get her.
G: Yes, I do too. I go down to their cancer center, that's for my cancer, and they've
got quite a medical school, no doubt about it. My primary doctor is one of their
doctors down there, a great guy.
P: Miami Lakes has won a lot of awards: the good housekeeping awards, town
planning, architectural planning. Which of those awards are most important to
G: I don't know. I've never been real award conscious too much to be honest with
P: I think the recognition demonstrates that you did things the right way.
G: Well, some of them. Some of them are a lot of promotion involved, you're doing
this, etcetera; I'm not real excited about it.
P: You're not too worried about whether you get them or not. How would you like to
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 60
be remembered in terms of your contribution to this area?
G: I think Miami Lakes is unique, and I would like it to be remembered that it was my
idea to do it. We were at the stage where we could either sell off a thousand
acres here and a thousand acres there, or we could do something. It actually
turned out better than I thought it would to be honest with you, so that's pretty
P: Do you see that as your greatest achievement, Miami Lakes?
G: I think so.
P: What's been your biggest disappointment?
G: You know, I haven't been real disappointed. I have a wonderful family; that may
be my biggest happiness, my family. I have five wonderful children, four
daughters and one son, ten great-grandchildren, and they all seem to get along.
All of them work in the business except one daughter who lives in Colorado, and
she has stock in it and participates in things. That makes me feel good to see
them getting along together.'
P: I meant to ask you earlier, does the Graham Company have any stock in the
Washington Post, Newsweek?
G: No, no connection.
P: That's completely separate?
G: That is absolutely, completely separate. Now, the Washington Post people have
some stock in the Graham Company. My nephew ....
P: Don Graham.
G: He has stock in the company.
P: He's the publisher of the Washington Post?
G: No, he's the president of the company. He has stock in it, and his brothers have
stock, and his sister, we bought her stock, but the other two brothers have some
P: Tell me a little bit about your family that's involved in Miami Lakes. I know one
daughter is in charge of the apartments.
G: Stu Wylie and his wife-Carol Wylie is president and chief executive officer of our
company-his wife is in charge of our leases of offices, shopping centers,
commercial leases and that sort of thing, that's what she does. My oldest
daughter, Sandy Younts, is in charge of our hotel operation. She runs the hotel,
the golf courses, the athletic club, and the restaurants involved in that. My young
daughter is married to Luis Martinez, and Luis Martinez is a very good find that
we got. He had been a banker-they met at the University of Miami MBA
program. Luis is a wonderful person; he came out of Cuba when he was two
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 61
years old, and his mother came out with a thermos for the children's milk, and
she had taken some of the insulation out and put jewelry in there to have
something. She got to Miami and asked for it, and she didn't have a dollar. Some
guy gave her $10 and she got settled. His father was a doctor and they wouldn't
let his father out; his father got out later-went to Puerto Rico and came out later.
But Luis is a real find for us. He was a banker and had his own private business
for awhile. He and Beth run our apartment division, and they do a great job of
that. That's all I remember, did I miss anybody?
P: Talk a little bit about your support of Bob Graham's political career. Were you
enthusiastic when he ran for governor, and did the family support him financially?
G: The family supported him very enthusiastically. When he first talked about
running for government we all kind of pooh-poohed him, practically everybody
did, but once he got in it we committed completely to it.
P: He gives you a lot of credit for that. He says that without your support and help,
that he probably couldn't have made it.
G: I think we helped him. When he started he didn't have anything; in fact, his start
started with the agricultural people, the dairymen and the big cattle people and
stuff that were friends of our family, my Dad's and mine. They helped him when
other people wouldn't help him. Some of his good friends didn't think he had a
chance; they wouldn't even contribute to him. The first function we had was a
barbeque up at Okeechobee and was put on by the dairy farmers, so he got a lot
of support that way.
P: It's interesting because as he says in our interviews, when he started out he
really wasn't much of a politician. It was hard for him to go out and ask for votes
and money and that sort of thing, but he really developed great skill in that
category, and he's just superb at it.
G: And you have to give him credit for working at it, it didn't come naturally.
P: He worked hard.
G: Right, he did things to develop that right. In a way he got into the work day thing,
which was a big help for him. Sandy D'Alemberte [Presdient of American Bar
Association and President of FSU], who I'm sure you know, was a friend of his,
and we used to have meetings every Saturday over at our little office in Pine
Square. He and Bob Parks one day came out and said, Bob Graham needed to
do something to humanize him a little bit, and they came up with the idea of the
work day. Bob Squier, his TV guy, jumped at it because he had done that with
Tom Harken [U.S. Senator, D-lowa] out in Iowa, and it really worked, and he
liked the TV opportunities it gave him for his ads. That really developed into a
heck of a thing for him.
P: The thing that's interesting about it, when he went for these jobs, he actually did
the jobs, it wasn't just a photo op.
G: He did a good job, but he met people.
P: He learned a lot about each job.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 62
G: He learned things that he didn't know, and he had some of those people come to
Tallahassee and testify for bills or information, truck drivers and stuff, because he
learned what their real problems were.
P: Absolutely. In many ways it was a good political gimmick, I hate to use that word,
but it was a great learning experience.
G: It was a fabulous experience, and a lot of people didn't understand that part of it.
The key to it is what you said, he didn't just go there and shoot some TV shots
and go on.
P: Which a lot of them do. It's easy to get a photo.
G: Bob told me the other day that he's surprised that none of these state candidates
are doing anything. He said Lawton [Chiles] was walking, his [Graham] work day
thing, and he was talking about some of the democratic candidates.
P: It got great attention. Jim Davis ought to do something.
G: That's what Bob's saying.
P: Buy him an airplane or something.
G: He's been telling him that he needs to break out some.
P: You've got to get that kind of attention that lets you stand out. What was your
reaction when Bob Graham decided to run for president?
G: Well, maybe you know that he had this heart problem right in the key part of all
that, and I had a mixed reaction. I didn't know whether that was good for him
physically, and that part of it whether that was a healthy thing for him to be doing.
Apparently it wasn't any problem and stuff, but he was behind the block before
he ever got started. It was hard to get very enthusiastic about it, but we tried to
help him all we could.
P: We talked about that, the fact that one of his issues was going to be the war, and
then Howard Dean took that issue. Then he got a late start and it was harder to
raise money, and he wasn't physically as fit as he had been. It was a difficult
process for him and I think it was really disappointing to him.
G: He didn't have Squier anymore [Bob Squier died], and Squier was very important
to Bob. He got in the hands of some handlers, I call them, but I wasn't very
impressed with some of the things they did.
P: He told me, he said that NASCAR truck was a bad idea.
G: That didn't represent Bob Graham.
G: And they spent all their money on that thing, and they raised $2 or $3 million.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 63
They never ran a single TV ad, and that doesn't make sense. They had all the
staff, all these people and stuff; maybe you have to do that, I don't know.
P: Specifically, we know that he was considered for vice-president at least two or
G: Oh, yes, we were interviewed. They came down and went through our records.
P: And Kerry apparently had him pretty close to one or two, and at one point I
heard, and maybe Bob told me this, that they had some Kerry/Graham stickers
printed up. In other words, he had come pretty close at that time, and had
apparently come close a couple of other times.
G: Well, he had been very close with [Bill] Clinton, and Dukakis [Michael Dukakis, D,
Massachusetts governor, 1975-1979, 1983-1990, Democratic presidential
candidate in 1988] I think was the first one. But they came down and went
through our records and asked me any bad things I could think of that Bob had
ever done or we had ever done.
P: When was this? What year was this?
G: I don't remember which one it was, but Clinton was one of them.
P: 1992 would have been Clinton.
G: When was Dukakis running?
P: He was 1988.
G: I think it was those too. Maybe it was [Al] Gore, it could have been Gore. Maybe
I'm talking about Clinton and Gore, maybe that's who it is.
P: That's right. With Gore, Gore would have in 2000, I know he was very close to
G: I know Bob told me after, that Kerry had been very close too, and Kerry was
really offended by the way Gore handled it. I don't remember what it was all
P: I remember that too, that Gore didn't phone the runners-up.
G: He wasn't very nice about it, but he doesn't seem to have a very nice personality.
P: Politically, that's pretty stupid, isn't it?
G: I think that's pretty unbelievable, that's pretty basic.
P: The first thing you do is you say, we thank you very much.
G: I'm sorry, and we think the world of you and we're going to make you something
else, whatever you want.
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 64
P: Yes, be secretary of state or something, at least offer them something else. Have
you ever thought about politics, ever been interested in politics?
G: One time a group tried to get me to run for the Metro Commission, and I thought
about it for about thirty minutes. I had the misfortune of when Dad was active in
the Senate and I was living there at Pennsuco. The people that would come, and
I understand this, people have a problem, and their problem is the biggest thing
in the world. If it's two o'clock in the morning or whenever it is and they want to
talk to their damn elected official. Even Bob, now he's out of it, but anywhere you
went with him he couldn't really have any time to himself and stuff, and I just
didn't have any desire to do that. I'm very happy to help people, and I enjoyed
serving on the Transit Committee and was on a charter review board and things
like that, and the zoning boards, but I didn't want to get into something that was
that kind of commitment to people.
P: And you have to keep running for re-election, you have to keep raising money.
G: All the time. You really are faced with decisions. I remember Dad told me one
time when he took a position he really didn't particularly like, he said if you don't
get re-elected, you can't do any good for anybody. That's pretty pragmatic.
P: You have to make compromises, and a lot of people don't like to do that.
G: No, it's not easy, and I always felt like I could help Bob and commit and I could
go to sleep at night that I've made some contribution.
P: That's good. I've covered most of the stuff I have, are there any things that we
haven't talked about that you would like to talk about. Either the early years or
anything about Miami Lakes or anything else?
G: We've talked about most stuff, I think. You asked me earlier what thing I was
most proudest of and I said something about Miami Lakes, but I'd like to
reconsider that point; I'm really proudest of my family. We've been through two or
three kind of rough years with Pat and me and the things going on, and it's just
so great to have a nice family that's supportive of you. Just like last night with
Philip, a nice young guy, and he came up and worked on the farm in Georgia for
us this summer. What a delightful guy he was and he had a ball and he's ready
to move up there. They had him working and doing stuff. He was working with a
very talented guy really, but he doesn't have a lot of education, but he has a son.
He told Phillip, as soon as that son could understand him, he told him he's going
P: I notice you kept the same commitment as your father had about education.
G: Yes, with education, you're so limited if people don't do it. They just close the
door to themselves. Everybody says, well, Bill Gates dropped out; there aren't
many Bill Gates floating around this world.
P: Not too many people can be that successful, and if you're going to make it in the
world today, you better have some education of some sort.
G: If you're going to have a ticket to even get in and look to see what's going on
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 65
[you need an education].
P: How do you see the University of Florida today, all these years later? Do you
have much connection with the university?
G: I really don't. I guess the closest connection is my granddaughter that we were
talking about last night, and she loves it up there.
P: One of the things that I wanted to mention to you that I think is going to be really
terrific is going to be this Bob Graham Public Policy Center. We've made some
progress with it and I think he's pleased with the progress.
G: He seems to be.
P: It looks like it's going to be something that's essential for the state and the nation.
It's not going to be the Kennedy School of Government for a while, but it's
something we probably should have done years before. Since Bob Graham is
committed to it and has such a great reputation, I think that's going to make it a
lot more successful than if we had just sort of set it up ad hoc. He's going to
support it, a lot of his friends are going to support it, and I'm sure the family
supports it. I'm hoping that that will be a great success. I know you're in favor of
P: I think it's a good idea to train people in public service, because that's something
that you've been involved with and he's been involved with. Hopefully all we need
to do now is learn how to deal with 48,000 students; I'm not sure that's possible.
G: I've become a little bit anti-size in everything. Everything's just gotten so large;
just everywhere you go everything is so big.
P: When you were there in 1946, I don't guess there could have been 4,000
students? I don't know how many were there.
G: I think there were more than that, but I'm not sure. Now when I went there in
1942, there was either 2,300 or 3,000, something like that, but I think when we
came back [it was bigger].
P: It was about 7,000 by then, yeah, I think that's right.
G: I thought it was around 10,000, I'm not sure, but it had really boomed.
P: Is there anything else that you haven't talked about that you would like to bring
up? Is there anything about your career, family, parents?
G: No, except that I've been very lucky. You asked me about my military-the military
made me grow up and I learned what was important with people. I met some nice
people and people that I've had a long relationship with because of that.
P: Something you mentioned-I've done a lot of interviews with World War II vets,
they all talk about this family atmosphere because your life depends on the
support and effectiveness of your buddies. If you don't have that and when you
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 66
lose one, it's pretty devastating. That's about as close as people get.
G: Yes, and you know, you sleep together, you eat together, you do everything
together. Every now and then you would get a misfit. We had one navigator that
our pilot got rid of that just didn't fit our crew.
P: What do you want to do for the rest of your life?
G: I really enjoy working with my cattle in Georgia. It's trying to breed better cattle all
the time, and you're dealing with nature, so it's not like engineering. Two and two
doesn't always make four. You can have what you think is going to be a great
breeding, and it will turn out to be a flop, and then something else pops up over
here you hadn't even anticipated. Plus, it's beautiful up there. We've got a
beautiful piece of land and a lot of deer and turkey and quail. I don't do much
hunting any more, in fact I don't do any, but I enjoy seeing the deer and the
turkey and the birds and all that. I enjoy being in Georgia.
P: Have you been involved much with conservation activities?
G: Not in an organized way, but we've done a lot of things that we're pretty proud of.
I don't know how many trees we planted in Georgia, but we planted a lot of them.
P: Where do you sell your beef?
G: Our cattle are not sold as beef, they're sold as breeding cattle. We're going to
have a sale the Monday before Thanksgiving, which is next Monday I guess. We
have a sale at the farm there and we'll sell fifty bulls, thirty cows and calves in
pairs, and we'll sell twenty heifers. Then we do that again in March. Then in
October we sell 100 bulls down at Okeechobee livestock market to the ranchers.
Okeechobee is the center of a big Florida ranching industry.
P: What does a good Angus bull get these days?
G: Well, we've been averaging about $2,300 for a bull.
P: What does it cost to get them to that point to sell them?
G: Probably about $2,700. Don't ask those kind of questions. I tried to tell you early
on this beef business is not a real profitable business. It's a lot of fun.
P: At least you get some return.
G: We've had a lot of fun with it, and we always have a little dinner the night before
our sale at the house we've got up there, and we'll get thirty or forty or fifty
people. They're nice people, but some of them are lawyers that have some cattle
and some of them are this or that, some of them are old hard core guys that their
grandfather was a cattleman. We've been doing this for years and years, and I
don't think we've ever had a guy stiff us.
P: That's pretty unusual.
G: Well, they really don't do that. We had one guy that tried to pull something on us,
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 67
and I got warned about three or four times about him, so I was very careful. He's
sick, and he actually wrote me a letter on a bank letterhead that was a fake letter.
He could have gotten in real trouble doing it. It happened to be the same bank
that we used and I checked, and he wasn't right at all. He was just weird, he's
sick, and the guys were telling me that. We give guys credit for stuff and hauled it
off to them. I like, and I've always liked, people that are hard working. I grew up
working on a farm with these people that didn't have a lot of education, and I've
always liked them. We started our dairy farm, it used to be populated by people
from northern Alabama, Tennessee; they weren't plantation areas of the South,
they were the old piedmont areas, hilly areas. They were at little farms and they
couldn't earn a living doing that, so they came down here. One of them would be
milking, so they would right back and a cousin would come. Now we've got all
Hispanics, mainly Mexican, but some Nicaraguans too. It's a whole different
P: Those old-I guess it's sort of a derogatory term but a correct term-some of these
old Florida crackers are hard working.
G: I don't think it's derogatory at all, I think it's a great group term.
P: But they're hard working, honest, reliable.
G: If you get a good one, you got a stalwart one.
P: They're loyal.
G: I don't think redneck is a bad term. To me a redneck is a guy that's out there with
nature and he doesn't have a lot of time for nonsense.
P: That's right, that's why he's got a red neck, he's out there working all the time.
G: That's right, that's why he gets that term. Of course, you know where the Florida
cracker term came from.
P: My theory is the old whips used for driving and catching hogs.
G: That's what they say.
P: Of course, the cattle industry for a long time, you know the Civil War ...
G: That's all they did that was any significance was provide some beef.
P: Yeah, they used to drive them up and drive them through Gainesville and drive
them up to the railhead in Jacksonville.
G: They ran them up there to feed the Confederates.
P: They didn't feed them enough apparently.
G: No. They did pretty good considering what was going on.
P: Is there anything else that you would like to comment on?
FBL 33, W.A. Graham, Page 68
G: I can't think of anything.
P: Okay. On that note I will end the interview, and I want to thank you very much for
[End of Interview.]