Bill Graham Passes Away

Jan. 19, 2009, 3:41 p.m. (ET)
 GRAHAM, WILLIAM "BILL" ANSON, longtime South Florida community leader and former chairman of The Graham Companies which developed the 46-year-old community of Miami Lakes, passed away January 17th. He was 84. Graham was born February 7, 1924, to Ernest R and Florence Graham, on a houseboat moored at the edge of the Miami Canal at a sugar plantation in the Florida Everglades. His birth was the catalyst for building the famous old coral rock house at Pennsuco which, despite hurricanes, floods and Glades fires, still stands today and remains a place of historical interest. He attended Miami schools, graduating from Miami High School in 1942. He received a B.A. from the University of Florida in 1949 with a major in Economics and Political Science, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his senior year. Graham's education was interrupted by World War II when he served three and one-half years in the Army Air Corps. He was a radar officer on a B-29 in the Pacific Theater of Operations. After the war he continued his love of flying, piloting his personal plane throughout the country. Together with his two brothers (the late Philip Graham, publisher of The Washington Post and Newsweek), and Bob, (former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator), and in collaboration with Lester Collins, grandson of Miami Beach developer John S. Collins, Bill Graham pioneered the master-planned community of Miami Lakes, Florida's first "new town" which opened in 1962. As a result of sound land planning, conservative financial management and careful construction timetables, the community of Miami Lakes became nationally recognized as a successful prototype. Today, the community, now incorporated as the Town of Miami Lakes, is home to more than 27,000 residents, many of whom are numbered in the nearly 10,000 employee-base of Miami Lakes businesses. Miami Lakes is a totally-integrated combination of single family homes, townhome villas, apartments, condominiums, hotels, resort facilities, shopping centers, office & industrial buildings, parks, lakes, schools, churches and other public services. Through his brother Phil's influence as publisher of The Washington Post, Bill Graham was able to get 2000 acres of the former World War II military airport (now Opa-locka Airport), deeded to Miami-Dade County for future development of Amelia Earhart Park. The park now includes the Bill Graham Farm Village, the first authentic farm village in Miami-Dade. It includes a petting zoo, sugar cane press, boiling shed, smokehouse, gazebo, general store and barn, a windmill, haystack, tractor, livestock pens and a tropical fruit grove. Bill Graham fell in love with Angus cattle at the age of 16 when his father, Ernest, let him breed some native Florida cattle to Angus bulls. Ernest Graham, a former state senator and one time candidate for Florida governor, had developed the Graham Dairy farm which grazed on acreage he acquired following the demise of the Pennsylvania Sugar Company of which he was general manager. Following World War II, Bill Graham established a registered Angus herd, and in the early 1950's, began performance testing to supply bulls for the Graham's large commercial herd on what is now Miami Lakes and Venus, in middle Florida. He was also an active leader in local and state community and agricultural organiz ations for many years including serving as president of the Dade County Cattlemen's Association, the Florida Dairy Association, the Independent Dairy Farmer's Association, and as a board member of Performance Registry International. Graham was also on the board of directors of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce, WPBT (Channel 2) and served on the Dade County Charter. Review Board, the Metropolitan Dade County Transit Authority, Miami Springs Zoning Board and was one of the original twelve members of the Non Group. Graham worked quietly behind the scene, in the community he loved. He contributed to countless causes and enjoyed giving his time and financial support to talented youth who came from disadvantaged backgrounds. In 1945, Bill Graham married Patricia Jane Culbertson of Minneapolis, Minnesota. They have five children - Sandra Younts, William E. Graham, Carol Wyllie, Cynthia Gordon, and Elizabeth Martinez - and 10 grandchildren. Bill Graham lived at a high level of excellence in many activities: as a high school student he played on the first state championship basketball team at Miami Senior High School; as a student at the University of Florida, he was a member of the scholastic honorary society, Phi Beta Kappa; as a young dairy farmer he led the establishment of the Independent Dairy Farmers and was later inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame; he was a leader in applying modern genetics to Angus beef production and is a member of the American Angus Association Hall of Fame; he was the visionary and force behind Miami Lakes, one of America's most recognized new towns; well into his 70's Graham was a world class badminton player. A celebration of his life will be held at the Miami Lakes Congregational Church on his birthday February 7th at 5:00 pm. In lieu of flowers please send any donations to the Miami Lakes Congregational Church or the Moffitt Center in Tampa. 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Published in The Miami Herald on 1/19/2009