Remembering Frank Graham, "Mr. 4-H"

September 20, 2013

COLUMBIA, Mo. — When the Missouri 4-H Foundation was established in 1949, Frank Graham was there, and he was involved with the foundation until his death. Frank was a National 4-H Hall of Fame laureate; he devoted his life to helping others; and exemplified the Heart in the 4-H clover.

For his generous spirit and practical wisdom, the Missouri 4-H Foundation was honored to induct Frank Graham into the Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame in 2011.

Albert Franklin Graham was born on a dairy farm in Fair Grove, Mo., in 1920, and be became a member of the Fair Grove 4-H Club in 1933. Frank used to "throw rocks at rabbits" on the country roads, and developed the pitching arm that served him in college. He was star pitcher for the MU Tigers, which won Big Six Championships in 1941 and 1942.

When Frank graduated from MU in 1942 with an agriculture degree, he turned down a St. Louis Browns professional baseball contract to take a position as the Wright County extension agent. He then served as an infantry officer in World War II, and was an instructor for paratrooper training. Frank returned to University of Extension in 1946, becoming an agent in Johnson County.

In 1949, Frank was one of eight founding members of the Missouri 4-H Foundation, and continued his involvement with the foundation until his death. Frank never missed a foundation meeting. Frank served as state 4-H leader from 1958 to 1975, and over his 33-year career with University Extension, earned the name "Mr. 4-H." He was a former member and chair of the National Extension Committee on Policy for 4-H Youth Programs, and he served on the National 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees.

In his honor, the Missouri 4-H Foundation created the Frank Graham 4-H Volunteer Leadership Award in 1999. Frank was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2007, he was awarded the Nelson Trickey Bridge Builder Award, and became a Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame laureate in 2011.

Survivors include his wife, Olive; a daughter, Judy Layher of Branson, Mo.; a brother, George Graham of Nevada, Mo.; stepchildren, Chad Briggs, Joey O'Neill and Michael Briggs; 13 grandchildren, step-grandchildren Meghan O'Neill, Corie O'Neill and their father, Tom O'Neill; 25 great-grandchildren; and seven great-great grandchildren.

Frank was preceded in death by his first wife, Emma Jean Graham; a son, Jerry Graham and sister Bernice Bryant.

Memorials may be given to the Missouri 4-H Foundation Frank Graham Leadership Fund.