Waller W. Graves, of Jefferson City, judge of the supreme court and recognized as a peer of the ablest members who have sat upon the bench in the court of last resort in Missouri, was born in Lafayette county, this state, December 17, 1860. His parents, Abram L. and Martha Elizabeth (Pollard) Graves, were natives of Missouri and Kentucky, respectively. The father, a farmer by occupation, was also actively interested in public affairs, particularly in relation to the schools and for many years served as a member of the board of education. He was also a Justice of the peace and in official and non-official capacities had much to do with the advancement of public welfare in his county. He died in January. 1919.
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Waller W. Graves, after obtaining a high school education in his native county, attended the State University at Columbia, but before reaching graduation took up the profession of teaching in Lafayette county. After spending a few months in the school room as an educator he went to Bates county, where he taught school until 1885, at which time he was admitted to the bar, having in the previous years devoted his leisure to the mastery of the principles of jurisprudence. Five years’ study of Kent, Blackstone and other commentaries had qualified him for admission to the bar and he entered upon the general practice of law in Butler, Missouri, in 1885, forming a partnership, under the firm name of Parkinson & Graves. This relation was continued until 1893, when Judge Graves became associated with General H. C. Clark, under the firm style of Graves & Clark. This connection was maintained until 1898, at which period Mr. Graves was elected a judge of the circuit court. After six years on the circuit court bench he resumed the private practice of law but was again called upon for judicial service when in April, 1906, he took his place upon the supreme court bench through appointment of Governor Folk to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Judge W. C. Marshall. In the fall of that year he was elected to the office for a term of two years and in 1908 was reelected for the full term of ten years. So splendidly has he represented the people in this high Judicial position that he was again chosen for the office in 1918, his term to continue until 1928, when he will have served altogether upon the supreme court bench for twenty-two consecutive years. While filling this position some very noted cases have come before him, including the Harvester Trust case, the Lumber Trust case, the Gantt and Brown contest for the supreme court judgeship, in which Brown was successful, Judge Graves writing the opinion in this case. Judge Brown is a republican and Judge Graves a democrat, but partisanship has no place in the judicial service of Judge Graves, who is notably fair and unprejudiced in his rulings, basing his opinions upon precedence and the principles of jurisprudence.
On the 3d of June, 18911, in Butler, Missouri, Mr. Graves was married to Miss Alice M. Ludwick, her father a native of Ohio, while her mother was born in Virginia. They came to Missouri many years ago, and Mrs. Graves was born in this state, where her father engaged for some years in the occupation of farming, while later he turned his attention to merchandising. Judge and Mrs. Graves have become the parents of three sons: Ludwick, the eldest, who is now practicing law in Kansas City, participated in the World war, serving in the quartermaster’s department. He enlisted at the beginning of hostilities, becoming a captain of the Thirty-fifth Division, with which he went to France. While overseas and before reaching the age of twenty-live years he had been commissioned major and during his stay in France trade a most enviable record. The colonel under whom he served was ill much of the time, so that Major Graves had his duties to perform. The ability which he displayed attracted much attention, so that in September before the armistice was signed he was ordered to return to the United States to act as an instructor in his department, and he is now serving as judge advocate of the Missouri National Guard with the rank of major. He has the honor of being one of the three selected by the Pershing board as qualified and eligible for general staff duty in the regular army. He was on the boat Mount Vernon that was torpedoed on its way to France, two hundred miles out of Brest, thirty-five of its crew being killed, but the ship managed to reach Brest, where the troops were transferred to another boat. Waller W. Graves, Jr., the second son, now a student in the Kansas City School of Law, joined the marines and was stationed at Paris Island in the non-commissioned officer school. Later he was sent to the Officer’s Training School at Quantico, Virginia, where he remained until discharged. He attained the rank of second lieutenant. The third son of the family is John Lafayette Graves.
Judge Graves is a member of the Knights of Pythias and politically a democrat. It is said that every man has a hobby and the Judge’s is probably poultry raising, for he is very fond of the breeding of chickens. Those who know him, and he has a wide acquaintance, find him a very congenial companion, for he is a man of happy disposition, looking at life from the bright side, and this quality combined with his absolute fairness and excellent judgment make him an ideal public servant on the bench. His appointment, his election and his reelection all attest his high standing, his judicial record proving a particularly bright page in the history of Missouri’s bench and bar.