By: Brooke Prather
When describing a man who is larger than life, boasts a résumé that speaks for itself and is a leader in the agricultural industry, three words come to mind — tenacious, driven and passionate.
Upon first glance, Charles “Doc” Graham, D.V.M., resembles a typical Texas cattleman. Standing 6 feet 7 inches from his cowboy hat down to his squared-toe boots, Graham is not only striking in appearance but in character as well.
Small Town Legend
On July 13, 1932, in the small town of Thorndale, Texas, a living legend was born. The son of a farmer and a schoolteacher, Graham said he learned early on, with a little elbow grease and determination, he could achieve anything he set his mind to.
Working alongside his siblings on the family farm, Graham said he was taught how to work hard at an early age. Whether it was early morning cattle and hog feedings or late night harvesting of cotton and corn, he was involved in every aspect of production.
At the age of 18, Graham left the farm and set his sights on Aggieland, he said.
“I left home with $5 in my pocket,” Graham said. “I promised my mother I would amount to something someday.”
And he did.
Once an Aggie, Always an Aggie
Graham said he stepped foot on the Texas A&M University campus in the fall of 1949. As he fiddles with his Aggie ring smooth from years of wear, Graham’s face lights up when reflecting on his time in Aggieland.
True to his agriculture roots, in 1953, Graham graduated with a Bachelor of Science in animal husbandry. Upon graduation, Graham said he entered the United States Army. For two years, Graham proudly fought for the rights and liberties of the American people.
After returning home safely, he went back to Texas A&M to continue his studies. In 1956, he obtained a second Bachelor of Science degree, this time, in animal science.
Without hesitation, Graham accepted admission into Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine. During his first year of veterinary school, Graham said he began to seek out the best large animal veterinarians in Texas.
Shortly after his search began, he reconnected with a childhood friend — WH Cardwell, D.VM. Their friendship — turned working relationship — would prove to be a great partnership and a force to be reckoned with, Graham said.
Gambler, Risk-Taker, Businessman
Graham completed his studies at Texas A&M in 1961 with the coveted D.V.M. letters behind his name. With job opportunities ranging from Oklahoma to northern cities, he planted his roots in Elgin, Texas.
1961 was a good year, Graham said. It was during that year that he went into business with Cardwell, building their veterinary practice from the ground up.
“I still remember our conversation to this day,” Graham said. “It was Aug. 15, 1961, and we [Cardwell and Graham] were driving down that highway right over there. When I told him my standards, he almost wrecked the truck.”
Graham said he asked for 50 percent stake in the practice and claims he had the courage to do so because of his lack of funds and above average work ethic.
“I had lots of guts because I had no money,” Graham said. “I knew no living person could out-work me.”
Later in 1961, Graham opened the Southwest Stallion Station. Graham said, long as he can remember, he wanted to be in the stud business. At the age of 14, he purchased his first stud horse, Smokie Reed. Graham stood tall and confident alongside Smokie Reed, which was evident in the weathered black and white photo hanging proudly in his office. Graham knew he would leave his mark on the equine industry, he said.
The equine industry is not the only industry in which Graham has left his mark, said Milton Charanza, owner of Broken Triangle Cattle Marketing. Graham has also been involved in the cattle industry his entire life.
A companion of more than 20 years, Charanza has had the opportunity to work with Graham on numerous occasions in their dealings with Brahman and Brahman-Cross cattle.
“He [Graham] is a great businessman,” Charanza said.
Being the businessman that he is, Graham saw an opportunity to purchase a 6,000-acre feedyard in Gonzales, Texas. On Dec. 10, 1987, the decision was finalized.
“It was a gamble,” Graham said, in regards to the purchase. “I have never been afraid to take risks.”
Known today as GRAHAM Land and Cattle Co., what was once a small feedyard in South Texas has grown to hold 30,000 head of cattle at any given time.
Along with Elgin Veterinary Hospital, Southwest Stallion Station and GRAHAM Land and Cattle Co., Graham also had a hand in the early development of Elgin Breeding Service — a livestock semen collection facility located a few miles from Graham’s home. In addition, he owns three sale barns, a gas station and development property in Gonzales, Texas.
Hard Work Pays Off
Overseeing the above businesses, at the same time, is enough to give the average human heart palpitations. But anyone who has spent time with Graham knows he is anything but average, Charanza said.
“Through his hard work and passion for the industry, Dr. Graham could get an audience with anyone from university professors to politicians to anyone in between,” Charanza said. “He has made himself one of the most prominent agriculture leaders in our lifetime.”
Graham’s long list of achievements are evidence of his impact. According to the Texas State Directory website, his most note-worthy achievements include being recognized as a Texas A&M Distinguished Alumni and being named Most Worthy Citizen and Agriculturist of the Year in Elgin, Texas. Furthermore, he has been inducted into three hall of fames, American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
In 2014, Graham was named Texas A&M AgriLife Distinguished Texan in Agriculture. The award recognizes the efforts of Texas agriculturalists who gained distinction in recognition of their leadership and contributions to the Texas agricultural industry.
Legacy Worth Leaving Behind
Even with walls of plaques, certificates of achievements and hall of fame buckles, Graham finds every opportunity to give back to the community and agricultural industry.
“He [Graham] donates and gives to the cattle and horse industries as much as he can,” said Jennifer Monzingo, Southwest Stallion Services business manager. “He is a very generous man.”
She also said that each year, Graham hosts “Cattlemen for Cancer” at Hills Prairie Livestock barn. Cattlemen for Cancer is a benefit that raises money for M.D. Anderson and cancer research.
Over the past four years, Monzingo has worked closely with Graham seven days a week. She said he is hardworking, disciplined and quirky.
“He’s Dr. Graham,” Monzingo said. “He has impacted a lot of people.”
At 82 years old, Graham has lived a life most can only dream to live. As a living legend, he gives young professionals hope that they too can achieve the American dream.
“One visit with Dr. Graham and you’re ready to take on the world,” Charanza said.
Brooke Prather ’16 wrote “‘Doc,’ an American Dreamer” as a course project for AGCJ 314: Media Writing II, which is taught by Holli Leggette, Ph.D. She will graduate in 2016 with a Master of Science in agricultural leadership, education, and communications.
For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Courtney Coufal at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 845-1542.