OXFORD, Miss. – Even though he wasn’t an Ole Miss alumus, Lewis Adolphus Graeber, Jr., of Marks, will be remembered as one the university’s biggest fans. He was a member of the Chancellor’s Trust and the UM Loyalty Foundation, and he and his wife, Frances, who graduated from UM in 1941, established a scholarship in their names to assist deserving students pursuing degrees at the University of Mississippi.
“He loved to say he was Ole Miss’ biggest walk-on alum,” said son Bill Graeber. “But what Dad cared most about was helping young people get a quality education.”
Graeber’s education-related philanthropic efforts stretched across Mississippi, and included establishing scholarships at Delta State University, Northwest Mississippi Community College, Belhaven College, French Camp Academy, Reform Theological Seminary in Jackson, and Delta Academy in Marks. He also served on the boards of both French Camp Academy and Belhaven College.
“He was the most giving man I’ve ever known,” said son Clark Graeber. “He was a happy giver. He said it was fun to give away money.”
Though he didn’t allow for fanfare over his generosity, one of his greatest joys was receiving letters from the students who benefited from the scholarships he funded.
“He never asked for any kind of recognition,” Clark said. “But he especially appreciated notes from the kids.”
Graeber, who passed away in 2008, was educated in the Marks Public Schools and at Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College). Except for the four years he spent in the Navy during WWII, when he was stationed at Pearl Harbor, he lived in Marks his entire life.
He and his brother, James “Jim” Peyton Graeber, founded Graeber Brothers, Inc., in 1937, and Dixie Gas, Inc., and farmed Caledonia Plantation. He and Jim also co-founded the Graeber Foundation, which funded many of the scholarships he created.
Besides supporting education, Graeber also was active in supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, the Salvation Army, and many other charitable organizations, many of which are located in Mississippi. He served as an alderman for the city of Marks, was an elder in the Marks Presbyterian Church, and served on the boards of LeBonhneur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Delta Area Council of The Boy Scouts of America, National Propane Gas Association, Mississippi LP Gas Association, Mississippi Safety Council, Mississippi Economic Council and the Quitman County Planning Commission.
Following in the Graeber family tradition, three of Graeber’s children, Geri, Clark and Bill, are Ole Miss graduates. Graeber’s son Lewis is a graduate of Tulane University.
“We are grateful to Lewis Graeber and the Graeber family for their generous support of the University of Mississippi,” said UM Foundation president Wendell Weakley. “Mr. Graeber’s generosity will continue to benefit Ole Miss students for many years to come.”
Story by Sonia Thompson