William Whites Graves was a brilliant, hard-working man. Had he decided to be a newspaperman and printer, a historian, a publisher, a civic leader, an entrepreneurial business man or a law enforcement official he would have done well — but he did all of those and he did them quite well!
The W. W. Graves' story is of a life well lived. He was a passionate supporter of his hometown of St. Paul, Kansas; but the effects of his labors spread across Kansas and many other states. His accomplishments were formally recognized on May 31, 1952, when a diverse group of 240 people honored him with a banquet in the St. Francis School Gymnasium in St. Paul. The group included a bishop, the Chief of the Osage Nation, farmers, businessmen, state officials, college presidents, Kansas Press Association executives, the president of the Kansas State Historical Society, pressmen from across southeast Kansas, Graves’ friends from St. Paul and his wife, Susie. Among the accolades bestowed on him that evening were a rare Vatican Knighthood and an Honorary Osage Tribal Chief's status.
One of his last projects started on June 29, 1950, with a column in his St. Paul Journal. He challenged his town to get a library program going. He seeded the project with $500, books and a bookcase from his own collection. He also injected some urgency into his project by telling his readers:
“Now is the time. Not next year. The Journal man may not be on earth then, hence do not delay too long."
As part of his challenge he enlisted the formidable resources of the local Women's Home Demonstration Units to see the project to completion and they did not fail him. Over the next few years the women's group raised money for their first facility and accumulated more than 1,000 books. In 1953 members of the Home Demonstration team transitioned into the library board. Working with the city council, the board moved into a temporary facility in a public school building in May of 1955. The new library was named. "The Graves Memorial Public Library."
Graves had died suddenly, from a heart attack, on July 22, 1952. His death came only seven weeks after his honors banquet; and barely two years after he issued his challenge. At the time he issued his challenge, in 1950, he knew his right foot would be amputated in a couple of weeks. He knew exactly what he was doing when he entrusted his library to a capable women's project team.
Spaceships and Astronauts?
One has to wonder what Bill Graves would think about the "A Universe of Stories" Summer Reading Program in his library. He passed away five years before Sputnik and more than seventeen years before the Apollo 11 moon landing. As a voracious reader and journalist he had probably been exposed to science fiction space fantasies but other things were probably more important.
But today there is an fully-suited astronaut at the front door of his library and other images inside that are based on space technology that we have taken for granted for years. What would he do if suddenly exposed to technology not dreamed of in his day? I have to think he would be surprised, then intrigued. He would probably start reading everything he could get his hands on and then put his trusty Royal typewriter to work.
To learn more about this remarkable man follow THIS LINK to the Characters page of our website.
Some Background Information:
The Graves Memorial Public Library "A Universe of Stories" Summer Reading Program runs from June June 4 through July 16. The space themed program is shared by other regional libraries. The program schedule includes:
Thoughts 'n Things
Some 'Thoughts' and short articles about past and present-day St. Paul and the Southern Kansas - 4 State Region.