Robert "Bob" Graham, a 1936 graduate, was a world-class sprinter who starred on the Whitman track teams, specializing in the 100-yard and 220-yard events. Bidding for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in 1936, Graham qualified for the national finals in New York by placing second in the Far West tryouts. The winner of that particular race, who broke the existing Olympic record, was Mack Robinson, older brother of the Jackie Robinson, who later broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Because of a leg injury, Graham was unable to run in the national finals, missing a chance to join legendary sprinter Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics.
While at Whitman, Graham dominated the sprint events, winning conference titles in the 100- and 220-yard events in 1934, 1935 and 1936. He remains the Whitman school record holder in both the 100-yard dash (9.6 seconds) and 220-yard sprint (21.2 seconds).
Nicknamed "Bullet Bob" and the "Flying Phantom" by local news media, Graham led Whitman to the conference title in 1934 and 1935 (Linfield edged Whitman by two points in 1936). As a sophomore and junior, Graham also anchored Whitman's winning mile relay team at the conference championships. As a senior, he nearly gave Whitman a third straight conference crown in the mile relay, running his leg in in 47.9 seconds and failing by inches to close a gap that was nearly 40 yards when he took the baton.
A native of Payette, Idaho, and graduate of Ontario (Ore.) High School, Graham graduated magna cum laude from Whitman, where he also earned Phi Beta Kappa honors and served president of the junior class as well as the associated student government. He completed his law degree at New York's Columbia University Law School. A partner in one of Seattle's largest law firms, Graham was active in civic affairs, serving as president of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce and Seattle Rotary Club.
In 1978, Graham traveled to Vienna, Austria, with then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to represent the U.S. in troop reduction talks between NATO and Warsaw Pact nations. Graham died in Seattle on Jan. 5, 1990, at the age of 74. He was serving at the time as chair of the Whitman Board of Overseers.Back to main news release