Arthur D. Graves

by Lynn McMillen
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Lt .Col. (RET) Arthur D. Graves
February 7, 1927 – July 18, 2023

As an Air Force officer, Arthur Davis Graves proudly served his country and traveled the world. As a teacher and later as a college professor, he tried to make a difference in the lives of his students. As a business owner, he took pride in providing excellent care and reliable service to bereaved families. As a community leader, he spoke out on issues and worked to improve the quality of life in this area. No matter where he was—overseas or in other parts of the country— Tuscumbia was always home. He loved this place in the corner of Northwest Alabama and was so grateful he could return to the corner where he was born to continue to raise his children and enjoy life after his retirement. We were blessed to have him; we were blessed to know him.

Arthur Davis Graves was the youngest son of seven children born to Frank and Alice Graves of Tuscumbia. From an early age, he worked, and he worked hard. Milking cows and delivering milk to neighbors before school, tearing down box cars to help his father build rent houses, and often being called out of school to run errands and fix things. He met his wife, Jean, while at her house fixing a clogged drain. Years later, they were set up by family and friends and were married on November 22, 1958. They enjoyed almost 65 years of life together, and to this union, three children were born: Lisa Graves Minor (Julian), Kenneth Davis Graves (Tamekia), and his beloved baby, Sherri Graves Smith (William Charles), who preceded him in death.

Education was of great importance in the Graves family. Arthur was a 1944 graduate of Trenholm High School and a 1949 graduate of Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University. He earned a Master’s degree from Tennessee State University and the Ed.S (Education Specialist) from the University of North Alabama. He began his teaching career in 1949 as a public schoolteacher at the Old Courtland Colored High School and later taught at Tennessee Valley High School in Hillsboro, Alabama, and Decatur High School. While living in Lawrence County, he trained as a mortician and funeral director under his uncle, Mr. George Reynolds, at Reynolds Funeral Home in Decatur.

Arthur received his commission in 1948 after completing Air Force ROTC at the historic Tuskegee Institute and entered active service in 1951. He taught in the ROTC program at Tennessee State University, before becoming a supply officer in the Air Force. After serving in the military, he returned to teaching and started a new career in higher education at the University of North Alabama, where he taught for fourteen years and served for three years in administration as Assistant to the President.

In 1982, he was able to fulfill a lifelong ambition to own his own business by purchasing Thompson and Son Funeral Home, one of the oldest businesses in the Shoals area and the oldest continuously Black-owned and operated business in Northwest Alabama. As a funeral director and business owner, he mentored many who were interested in funeral service and entrepreneurship. He was actively involved in the business and felt a personal responsibility to go on every funeral that he could. He worked until he couldn’t work anymore.

Arthur Graves was a devoted, committed, lifelong member of Lesley Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church. He fondly said that he traveled the world and lived around the globe but had always and only been a member of one church, Lesley Temple. At 96, he was still teaching Sunday School, only stopping after his health began to fail.

Arthur Graves was a man of varied and multiple interests. During the 1980s, he began another career in real estate development and established A.D. Graves Subdivision in Hillsboro, Alabama, along with other properties. In addition to his business ventures, he enjoyed an active life of community and civic involvement. He was a charter member of the Shoals Industrial Development Authority, former director of American Educators Life Insurance Company and Mutual Savings Life Insurance Company, and a former member of the UNA President’s Cabinet and the Colbert County Democratic Executive Committee. He served for two years on the Alabama Funeral Service Board. He also was a member of the NAACP, the Colbert County Chapter of the Alabama Democratic Conference, the Trenholm High School Reunion Executive Committee, and the Shoals Tuskegee Alumni Club. For the last forty years, one of his fondest activities was being the host of his own Sunday morning gospel program on WZZA. He loved his radio audience, and they loved him.

As a father and grandfather, he invested his time, his attention, and his love in his children. He coached Little League, hauled kids, drove to music and dance classes, attended recitals and plays, chaperoned field trips—he even helped build the first playground at Southside Elementary School (Trenholm Elementary). Family time was important to him, and he led his family with love, dignity, and integrity.

Committed to God, his family, and his country, Arthur Graves was one of a kind, a real character, and he will be greatly missed. In addition to his daughter Sherri, he was preceded in death by his parents; five siblings, Patsy, Frank, Alyce, Isaac, and John T.; two sons, Dr. Frank Graves and Arthur B. Graves; and numerous other relatives. He is survived by his loving wife, Jean Long Graves; his two children, Lisa and Kenny, and their spouses, Joey and Tamekia; granddaughters, Leslie Minor and Kristen Graves; the sons of his late son, Arthur B. Graves—Arte, Arlon and Armond Graves; sister, Gloria Graves Mahorney and special nephew, Charles; brother and sister-in-law, Mansel and Denise Long; special niece and cousins, Bridget Floyd, Mrs. Marge Gunn, and Jennifer Daniels and family; nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, dear friends too numerous to name, cherished church family, and the beloved and devoted staff of Thompson and Son Funeral Home.

If you would like to make a donation in his memory, these were some of his favorite causes: Lesley Temple C.M.E. Church, Trenholm High School Reunion Scholarship, and Atlanta Cancer Care. Memorials may be sent c/o Thompson and Son Funeral Home, P.O. Box 867, Tuscumbia, AL 35674.

Funeral service for Lt. Col. Graves will be: 11:00 a.m. Saturday, July 22, 2023, at Lesley Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Tuscumbia, AL; Pastor Trevor Crenshaw, officiating. Burial in Oakwood Cemetery, Tuscumbia, AL. The body will be placed in the church at 10:00 a.m. The public viewing will be today, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Thompson and Son Funeral Home, Tuscumbia, directing.

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