Don Graham, author, critic and University of Texas professor, died June 22, 2019, of a stroke at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin. He was 79.
“Dobie would have been proud of his successor,” Elizabeth Cullingford, chairwoman of the UT English department, told the Austin American-Statesman. “Texas—its books, films, landscape, culture and people—was his perennial subject. His students loved him. ... He lived a coherent and fantastically energetic life as a public intellectual. We will miss him.”
Graham was the J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor at UT and writer-at-large for Texas Monthly. He also served as past president of the Texas Institute of Letters, the leading advocate for the state’s literature.
“Don Graham was a homespun Texas scholar, the utter antithesis of a stuffy English professor—a breezy, gossipy, affable, plainspoken inspiration to generations of UT students and fellow writers,” prominent author and journalist Stephen Harrigan said. “And he was not only an expert on Texas and Southwestern literature, he was a part of it. His lively and contrary voice will continue to be heard for a long time through his books and essays.”
Graham was born in January 1940 in Collin County. He earned his Ph.D. in English at UT in 1971. His books include No Name on the Bullet: A Biography of Audie Murphy, Cowboys and Cadillacs: How Hollywood Looks at Texas, and Kings of Texas: The 150-Year Saga of an American Ranching Family. Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber and the Making of a Legendary American Film was included on several lists of best Texas books of 2018.
“Don was the last person you would imagine as a creature of the academy, although he was a fine scholar,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Lawrence Wright said. “He savored life and literature, especially the art of the Southwest. His singular critical judgment was always tuned to his mischievous personality, so you never knew what to expect. He kept you off guard with his trenchant remarks and a sudden wallop of humor.”
A memorial service was held on June 28 in Austin. Graham is interred at the Texas State Cemetery.