One of the Riverina’s most successful political stories is that of the Hon. Edgar “Eddie” Graham. Born in January 1897, Graham attended both the Lake Albert Public School and the Wagga Wagga Public School, but only for the minimum time required. Once when asked which University he had attended Graham cheekily replied “the University of Lake Albert”.
After school, Graham gave carpentry a try, but soon left to work on his father’s farm “Summer Glen”. He then entered into the butchery trade in 1917 and established his own business, the Marble Arch Butchery. Graham then moved into the pig stud business, establishing the famous Kinilibah Stud Farm in 1932.
Graham had also always been active in rural groups and associations. From 1925-41 he served as President of the Wagga Wagga District Junior Farmers’ Club. His first entrance into the political arena was when he entered State politics in 1941, becoming the Member for Wagga Wagga, and in 1944 the Minister for Agriculture and Food Production within the McKell Labor Government. Graham served as Minister for a record ten years during which time, he initiated many reforms in the agricultural industry.
Graham remained in office until his death in November 1957. Several years later when he was posthumously awarded the Freedom of the City, he was the first person in Wagga to be given this honour.
Aside from initiatives in agriculture, Graham also worked to benefit the Wagga Wagga electorate in terms of creating educational opportunities. During his term, Graham advocated for, and was able to secure, the building of the Wagga Teachers College, the Wagga Technical College and the Wagga Agricultural College. He also made representations to the Minister for Health, which resulted in the addition of maternity units to Junee and Wagga Wagga Hospitals, as well as improvements to the operating theatre at Wagga Wagga Hospital.
Graham’s contributions to the agricultural industry are well remembered with numerous memorials erected in his honour. The Graham Block stands at Charles Sturt University and the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is also named after him.
Graham also had the honour of greeting Queen Elizabeth in February 1954 she visited Wagga Wagga.
Dr Nancy Blacklow has written a biography of Eddie Graham entitled “The Accidental Politician” published in 2005. Her book contains a wonderful quote which epitomises why Eddie Graham was so popular with constituents within his electorate. Malcolm Glennie Holms was quoted as saying, “…my father told me this is why people kept voting for him – he really was a local member. My father was a lifelong Liberal voter, but he voted for Eddie Graham. When I asked him why, he said because he felt he was his local member, and not just a politician.”
“The Accidental Politician – Edgar Hugh Graham” by Nancy Blacklow; CSU Regional Archives collections (RW22, RW43 & RW115).