One of the Riverina's most successful political stories is that of the Hon. Edgar Hugh Graham. Born in January 1897, Edgar, affectionately known as 'Eddie', was the son of Edward Graham, a pioneer of the Wagga Wagga district. Edgar attended Lake Albert Public School, yet finished his schooling at Wagga Wagga Public School in Gurwood Street. Upon completing his education Graham gave carpentry a try, but soon left to work on his father's farm, 'Summer Glen'. After some years on the land he entered into the butchery trade in 1917 and established his own business, the Marble Arch Butchery. Whilst making a successful career out of the meat retail industry he also gained valuable experience in judging stock. With a passion for travel and the outdoor life he sold his business and became engaged in buying stock for a large business firm. Graham then moved into the pig stud business, establishing the famous Kinilibah Stud Farm in 1932. He exhibited pigs for a number of years at both Sydney and Melbourne Shows, taking out a number of prizes and medals.
It's difficult to ascertain Graham's motives to enter politics. However, he had always been active in rural groups and associations. From 1925-41 he served as President of the Wagga Wagga District Junior Farmers' Club. His first entrance into the political arena was when he entered State politics in 1941, becoming Minister for Agriculture and Food Production within the McKell Labor Government in 1944. Edgar served as Minister for a record ten years. During this time, he initiated many reforms in the agricultural industry. Of particular merit to Graham was the establishment of country meat killing centres, encouragement of ruminative prices for wheat and the establishment of artificial insemination programs for stock breeders.
Aside from initiatives in agriculture, Graham also worked to benefit the electorate in terms of creating education opportunities. During his term, Graham advocated the building of a teachers and technical college, and pressed for repairs to many of the primary schools in the district. He also made representations to the Minister for Health, which resulted in the addition of maternity units to Junee and Wagga Wagga hospitals, as well as improvements to the operating theatre at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital.
Graham's contribution to the agricultural industry and other rural services are well remembered with numerous memorials erected in his honour and still visible today. The Graham Block stands at Charles Sturt University, the E H Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is named after him, and a park is named after him at Berry on the South Coast.
Graham remained in office until his death in 1957. On the 16 March 1962, the Posthumous Honour of Freedom of the City was conferred on this notable product of Wagga Wagga.
Compiled by : Troy Whitford.
Sources : Papers, Edgar H. Graham, RW22, RW43, RW115, CSURA.