Former N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Jim Graham died Thursday, Nov. 20, from the complications of pneumonia. He was 82.
Hundreds of friends attended his Sunday (Nov. 23) funeral at the First Baptist Church in Raleigh. Graham, with his trademark Stetson, cigar and cowboy boots, was an agricultural icon in the state. He served in the post of Agriculture Commissioner continuously from 1964 until 2000, when he chose to step down.
Farming in the state became an economic juggernaut while Graham was in control. When he retired the state was - and continues to be - ranked first in the nation for total tobacco, flue-cured tobacco, sweetpotatoes and turkeys. It is ranked second for hogs and pigs, Christmas trees, cucumbers and trout. The list goes on.
Graham became so identified with his job that his election was virtually a sure thing. He never took the job for granted, however. He would remind everyone of that each time he delivered a speech, by invariably ending it with, "And I love my job."
He eventually became affectionately known in the Tarheel state as "The Sodfather."