Graham, widower of Scarlett author, dies

UVA reports that longtime faculty member John Graham, widower to Alexandra Ripley, who penned the sequel to Gone with the Wind, has died. Ripley, originally from Charleston, whose foibles she covered in previous novels, shot to fame in 1991 upon the release of Scarlett, the critically maligned but hugely successful sequel to the classic Southern plantation novel by Margaret Mitchell. Graham's career was influential in bursting the then widely accepted pseudo-science of physiognomy.

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Professor Graham was a great scholar but an even greater skeptic whose inquiries into human fallacies ran broadly and deep.

He was a professor in my department at grad' school and, while I did not work with him directly on my thesis, I would visit him fairly often during office hours to talk. He was a tremendous conversationalist whose fount of knowledge extended to an astonishing array of subjects His wife was working on Scarlett at the time and John jokingly said he'd never have to work again if he didn't want to. But he did and many students were all the better for it.

John's interest in his students' achievement was considerable. He was also a quiet leader on the faculty in my department, often the voice of reason when the wily politics of academe (far nastier than anything going down in Congress) would become too rambunctious in the hands of younger professors whose arrogance and ambition sometimes got ahead of the department's greater, ostensible mission: to slake a student's thirst for knowledge.

John was a temperate, thoughtful man whose bemusement at human foibles was contagious and highly entertaining. His sese of humor was off-the-charts hilarious.

I had lost touch wth him through the years and now, sadly, my most vivid recollection of Professor Graham is of him sitting in his second-floor office, always a chaotic arrangment of papers, books, an ancient typewriter and an ashtray the size of a Frisbee on his desk. The ashtray was forever overflowing with cigarette butts and John seemed always to hold a smoke in his hand, lighting one after another in the days before UVA became a smoke-free university.

Graham was an iconoclast decades before it became fashionable. He was a hipster, I am confident, long before the term was even coined. His scholarship was impeccable.

And the world is now somewhat smaller for his absence.