Bibb Graves

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David Bibb Graves
Bibb Graves.jpg
38th Governor of Alabama
In office
January 17, 1927 – January 19, 1931
LieutenantWilliam C. Davis
Preceded byWilliam W. Brandon
Succeeded byBenjamin M. Miller
In office
January 14, 1935 – January 17, 1939
LieutenantThomas E. Knight
Preceded byBenjamin M. Miller
Succeeded byFrank M. Dixon
Personal details
Born(1873-04-01)April 1, 1873
Hope Hull, Alabama, U.S.
DiedMarch 14, 1942(1942-03-14) (aged 68)
Sarasota, Florida, U.S.
Resting placeGreenwood Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Dixie Bibb Graves
Alma materUniversity of Alabama,
Yale Law School
ProfessionTeacher, lawyer
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
UnitAlabama National Guard
1st Alabama Cavalry
117th U.S. Field Artillery
Battles/warsWorld War I

David Bibb Graves (April 1, 1873 – March 14, 1942) was an American Democratic politician and the 38th Governor of Alabama 1927–1931 and 1935–1939, the first Alabama governor to serve two four-year terms.

Early life[edit]

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

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

Political life[edit]

Bibb Graves Hall, the main administrative building at the University of North Alabama in Florence. Bibb Graves Hall is one of many public buildings in Alabama named after Graves, known as the "education governor."

Graves lost his first campaign for governor in 1922, but four years later, with the secret endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, he was elected to his first term as governor. Almost certainly Graves was the Exalted Cyclops (chapter president) of the Montgomery chapter of the Klan, but both Graves and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, another Alabama Klan member, were more opportunists than ideologues, politicians who used the temporary strength of the Klan to further their careers.[1] After receiving solid gold "passports" from the Klan, Graves and Black were collectively known in some Alabama circles as "The Gold Dust Twins."[2]

As governor, Graves earned a reputation as a reformer, abolishing the convict leasing system and raising taxes on public utilities, railways, and coal and iron companies. The new revenue was used to expand educational and public health facilities, increase teachers' salaries and veterans' pensions, fund an ambitious road-building program, and improve port facilities in Mobile. "To maintain his popularity among the farmers in northern Alabama and the working classes, Graves made good on his commitment to New Deal legislation, winning a reputation as one of the most progressive governors in the South."[3] During his second gubernatorial administration he supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's "court packing" plan and Hugo Black's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1937, when Black's ties to the Klan were debated in Congress, Graves noted his own previous membership as well, a membership that had been publicly revealed when he resigned from the organization in 1928.[4]

Graves appointed his own wife and first cousin, Dixie Bibb Graves, to serve the remainder of Black's term. She thus became Alabama's first woman U.S. senator.[5]

Graves made many successful trips to Washington to secure funds for Alabama, which he called "plum-tree-shaking expeditions," and President Roosevelt appointed him to a national advisory committee on agriculture and to an inter-regional highway committee. Graves was a strong opponent of eugenic sterilization; and in 1938, he was on hand to greet 1,200 delegates to the founding session of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare, a meeting of southern liberals, who addressed labor relations, farm tenancy, the poll tax, and constitutional rights and who condemned "enforced segregation within Birmingham." A fourth of the delegates were black.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Graves was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and an elder of the Christian Church. He was a founding member of the board of trustees of Bob Jones College and a personal friend of the founder, evangelist Bob Jones, Sr. Bibb Graves died in Sarasota, Florida while preparing for another gubernatorial campaign.


Bibb Graves Hall at the University of Alabama

The University of Montevallo has a Bibb Graves Hall, the University of North Alabama has a Bibb Graves Hall, Auburn University has both a Bibb Graves Amphitheatre and a Bibb Graves Drive, the School of Education at the University of Alabama is named for him, and the building housing the Sorrell College of Business at Troy University was formerly named Bibb Graves Hall. The historically black Alabama A&M University had a Bibb Graves Hall that housed its School of Social Work and Department of Criminal Justice, and the historically black Alabama State University had a women's dormitory named Bibb Graves Hall. In 2020, the Boards of Trustees of both schools voted to remove Graves's name from the buildings.[7] [8]The Jacksonville State University administrative building was named Bibb Graves Hall for 90 years until January 2021, when its Board of Trustees voted to rename the building "to reflect a more unified campus that believes in social justice and equality."[9]. Bob Jones University had a residence hall named for Graves until 2011, when it was renamed for H. A. Ironside.[10] Bibb Graves High School in Millerville, Clay County, Alabama, closed in 2003. A bridge in Wetumpka, Alabama, built in 1937, is named for Graves.[11]


  1. ^ Glenn Feldman,Politics, Society and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999); Rice, 138.
  2. ^ Gerald T. Dunne, Hugo Black and the Judicial Revolution (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1977), 61.
  3. ^ Dictionary of American Biography (Supplement 3: 318, 1973)
  4. ^ John Craig Stewart, The Governors of Alabama (Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 1975), 177. Steward notes that although Graves "prompted his law enforcement agencies to crush violence and lawlessness wherever it was encountered," he "never took the leadership" in the fight against the Klan.
  5. ^ Michael Newton (April 14, 2016). White Robes and Burning Crosses: A History of the Ku Klux Klan from 1866. McFarland. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-1-4766-1719-0.
  6. ^ Harry S. Ashmore, Civil Rights and Wrongs (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997); "Southern Conference for Human Welfare," Encyclopedia of Alabama "The conference was interrupted on its second day by Birmingham's police commissioner, Eugene "Bull" Connor, who famously informed attendees that they were forbidden to "segregate together."
  7. ^ "Bibb Graves' name removed from residence hall at ASU". WSFA. October 14, 2020. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  8. ^ Grass, Jonathan. "Alabama A&M renaming Bibb Graves Hall". Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  9. ^ "JSU | JSU News | University Renaming Historic Bibb Graves Hall".
  10. ^ BJU website Archived June 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ "Bibb Graves Bridge - Wetumpka, Alabama - Arch Bridges on". Retrieved August 1, 2018.


  • Dictionary of American Biography (Supplement 3: 317-18, 1973)
  • William E. Gilbert, "Bibb Graves as a Progressive, 1927-1930," Alabama Review 10 (1957), 15–30.
  • New York Times, March 15, 1942, 43.
  • Arnold S. Rice, The Ku Klux Klan in American Politics (Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1962)

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Democratic nominee for Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Benjamin M. Miller
Democratic nominee for Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Benjamin M. Miller
Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by