Robert D. Graham

Page 240 - Robert D.Graham, president of the Grand Rapids Trust Company, former member of both the house and senate bodies of the Michigan legislature, former member of the Michigan state board of agriculture, and well-known as a leader in horticultural industry, has been a resident of Kent county since his boyhood and has here been an honored and influential figure in financial and industrial affairs for many years. It is doubtful if any other one citizen of Michigan has here done more for the advancement of horticultural science and industry than has Mr. Graham, and recognition of this is to be shown by the placing of his name on a tablet to be inserted in the new horticultural building of the Michigan Agricultural College, near Lansing. As a citizen and as a man of affairs Mr. Graham has rendered good account of himself, and a brief review of his career consistently finds place in this publication. Robert D. Graham was born in Elgin county, province of Ontario, Canada, November 11, 1855, and is a son of Elwood and Ann (Kipp) Graham, likewise natives of that province and both representatives of sterling Scotch ancestry. The subject of this review was about one year old at the time of the family removal to Minnesota, where his father thus gained pioneer prestige, but after passing about eight years in the Gopher state Elwood Graham came with this family to Kent county, Michigan, in 1864. On the West Bridge street hill, Grand Rapids, Elwood Graham bought twenty acres of land, then almost inaccessible for vehicles, by reason of the steep grade of the hill. He brought the tract under especially high state of cultivation, was one of the pioneers in successful horticulture and fruit-growing in this section of Michigan, and was one of the first here to prove the value of glass farming. He developed a prosperous business as a market gardener and fruit grower, was one of the sterling citizens of Kent county during a long period of years, and here he and his wife continued to maintain their home until their death, secure in the high regard of all who knew them. Robert D. Graham was a lade of eight years at the time when the family home was established on the little pioneer farm in Walker township, Kent county, and there he passed the period of his boyhood and early youth, the while he profited by the advantages of the Grand Rapids public schools of the period. His quickened ambition found expression when he decided to prepare himself for the legal profession, and such is the texture of his mind that there can be no doubt that he would have made his mark as a practical exemplar of the science of jurisprudence. As it was, however, he gave three years to the study of law in the office of Edgar A. Maher, at that time a representative member of the Grand Rapids bar, and in 1879 he proved himself qualified for and was duly admitted to the bar and before the supreme court. At this juncture, however, he was called home to take charge of the farm, and he thus never engaged to any appreciable extent in the practice of law, though he has found his technical knowledge of great value in his active business career. Mr. Graham had a great liking for agricultural and horticultural industry, and he proved very successful in his activities in this connection, especially in the growing of fruit. He made a deep and intensive study of scientific horticulture during the passing years and became in time one of the prominent exponents of this line of industrial enterprise in Michigan, the while he gave for others the benefit of his research, experimentation and experience, so that he had much of leadership in the raising of the standards of Michigan agriculture and horticulture. He still owns and resides upon his fine rural estate, near the original family home, and has made this one of the model centers of horticultural enterprise in western Michigan, as well as one of the most beautiful demesnes of the metropolitan suburban district of Grand Rapids. The civic loyalty and public spirit of Mr. Graham naturally drafted him into the political life of his home county and state. In 1894 he was elected a member of the Kent county board of supervisors, as representative of Walker township, and thereafter he served two terms in the house of representatives of the Michigan legislature, his election to the state senate having occurred in 1898, and his service in both houses having been constructive. In 1899 Mr. Graham was elected president of the Fifth National Bank of Grand Rapids, and this position he retained until the consolidation of the institution with the Commercial Savings Bank, in 1908. Of the combined banking house he continued as president until 1914, when he resigned, to accept the office of president of the Grand Rapids Trust Company, one of the strong and well ordered financial institutions of Michigan. He resigned in August, 1925, and is now chairman of the board. He is a director of the Fourth National Bank and the Commercial Savings Bank, besides having other large capitalistic and industrial interests. He had much to do with the development and operations of the West Side Building & Loan Association, of which he became a director at the time of its organization, and his influence was large also in the affairs of the Citizens Telephone Company, of which he is a director. He was one of the organizers of the Citizens Telephone Company of which he served as vice-president and chairman of the board for many years until it was sold. During the period of 1902-19 Mr. Graham was one of the most influential and valued members of the Michigan state board of agriculture, of which he was the chairman I 1904, and he has given even more influential services as a member of the state board of horticulture. His loyalty to Michigan and his deep interest in horticulture found liberal, generous and practical expression when, in 1917, he presented to the state of Michigan, for use in connection with the state agriculture college, fifty acres of land in Walker township, to be employed as an experiment station in connection with agricultural and horticultural work. The land has fully proved in its use the great value of the work here carried on. The landed estate of Mr. Graham comprises seventy acres, and he still gives active supervision to his agricultural and horticultural enterprises, notwithstanding the many exactions of his business affairs. Mr. Graham is a Republican in politics, is affiliated with the Masonic fraternity and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and has membership in the Peninsular Club of Grand Rapids. He and his wife are members of the First Congregational church of which he is treasurer and a member of the board. In the year 1880 was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Graham to Miss Ann Gross, of Rockford, Kent county, and they have an adopted daughter, now Mrs. Josephine Hebard.

Transcriber: Pat Frey
Created: 27 February 2003