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Ernest R Graham Papers

Identifier: Ms 046

Scope and Content

The Ernest R Graham papers contain correspondence and other written documents, photographs, and newspaper clippings, illustrating Graham's career in truck and dairy farming, as a public servant on the Dade Drainage Commission and the State Highway Board, as a member of the Florida Senate, and as a political campaigner for the Governor of Florida and Dade County Commission. There is strong emphasis on subjects such as horse racing and racketeering, the gubernatorial campaign, and on drainage and other forms of water control in Dade County and in the Everglades.


  • Creation: 1908-1957
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1923-1948



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ernest R "Cap" Graham was a Florida politician, dairy farmer, and rancher. He was born in 1886 and moved to Dade County, Florida, in 1921 to raise sugar for the Pennsylvania Sugar Company. By 1929, Pennsylvania Sugar apparently had discontinued operations in Florida, and Graham was involved as operator of the Pennsuco Farming Company, either leasing land from or in partnership with the sugar company. In time Graham acquired the property and converted it to dairy farming. He was a member of the boards of the Dade Drainage District and the State Road Department (1929-1931).

In 1936 Graham was elected to the Florida State Senate, where he served two terms from 1937 to 1944. As a state senator, he sought to increase taxes on horse racing in order to increase funding for the aged. This led to his chairing of a Senate Committee to Investigate Racing in the State of Florida, which resulted in the publicizing of alleged corruption and mob connections within the Florida racing industry. Some increase in taxation did result. Graham went to Washington in 1942 as a lobbyist for Dade County and Miami, seeking more government contracts and other benefits for the area. He promoted the use of a barge canal across Florida through Lake Okeechobee to avoid the risk of war-time shipping through the Florida Straits. He entered the 1944 gubernatorial campaign against two major opponents, Millard Caldwell and Robert Lex Green. After finishing third in the Democratic primary, he supported Green.

After leaving the state legislature, Graham returned to farming in Dade county. In 1947-48, he returned to politics to campaign for a seat on the Dade County Commission, running largely on water control issues. He lost in the primary election.

Graham was married twice, to Florence Morris and Hilda Simmons Graham, and had four children: Philip Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post; William "Bill" Graham, president of the Graham Company and principal developer of Miami Lakes; Mary Graham Crow; and D. Robert "Bob" Graham, former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator. Ernest Graham died in 1957.


15 Linear feet (37 Boxes)

Language of Materials



Correspondence, photographs and clippings from Ernest Graham's career as a truck and dairy farmer, Florida public servant, and political campaigner. There is strong emphasis on subjects such as horse racing, racketeering, drainage, flooding and water control in South Florida.


Ernest Graham's papers are divided into five groups, usually centered on a major phase of his career. There is slight chronological overlapping between groups, and all items may not relate to the overall theme. The small number of personal papers, for example, is divided among the groups, based on date. The groups include: (I) Correspondence and business records, ca. 1925-1936, (II) Legislative Correspondence and Records, 1936-1944, (III) Gubernatorial Campaign, 1943-1944, (IV) Later papers and records, 1912 [bulk 1945]-1957, and (V) Photographs and scrapbooks of clippings 1908 [bulk 1923]-1948.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternate Form of Material

Items in the Ernest Graham collection have been digitized for America's Swamp: The Historical Everglades project, which is generously supported by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). In addition to the links that are provided in this guide to the collection, the digital reproductions can be browsed at the Ernest R Graham page in the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC).

Related Material

The University of Florida also holds the state legislative papers and the Senatorial papers of Ernest Graham's son, Bob Graham.

A Guide to the Ernest R Graham Papers
Finding aid created by Dept. Staff
August 2011
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America