category: Faculty Emeriti - Presidents

Thomas J. McGraw

Interim President, 1976

Tom McGraw (1925-2002), the son of James and Eva Wood McGraw, was born in Whitmire, S.C. He was one of 11 children.

McGraw went to Ruth
 Elementary School and Kings 
Mountain High School. He
 served in the United States
 Navy in World War II and 
flew fighter planes during the
 War. He came to Gardner-
Webb as a student in 1946;
 in 1947 he and Bettye Falls
 were married in Lawndale,
 N.C. Tom completed his 
bachelor’s degree in history
 at Wake Forest College
 (now University). He earned his master’s degree at Appalachian State Teachers College (now University). He taught in the North Carolina public schools for 12 years, first in Gibson, N.C., and later in Maiden, N.C. While in Maiden, he worked closely with Gardner-Webb President Dr. Eugene Poston.

McGraw came back to Gardner-Webb in the fall of 1962 and served as assistant to the president. His official title was vice president of fundraising and public relations. He and Poston worked together during the Decade of Advance (1961-1971), and in 1970 he became the executive vice president of the College, working in that capacity for eight years.

In the spring of 1971, Gardner-Webb awarded the first of the school’s four-year degrees. Gardner-Webb had received senior college status and was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). McGraw was instrumental in the formation of the Nursing Degree Program. When Poston left Gardner-Webb, McGraw served as interim president until a new president could be selected.

McGraw was committed to the town and community as well as to the college. He worked with the campus community during the turbulent times of the 1960s and earned the respect of the students, faculty and staff. His home was open to students where they were welcomed by his wife, and three daughters: Cindy and the twins, Mitzi and Meloni. Mrs. McGraw served as hostess for many occasions on campus; she was also considered the campus decorator as she assisted in the furnishing and decoration of new and renovated facilities.

All three of the girls attended and received degrees from Gardner-Webb. Cindy worked with IBM; Meloni attended Clemson University before enrolling at Gardner-Webb; Mitzi received her degree in business from Gardner-Webb.

McGraw left Gardner-Webb to join the Federal Court System in the Western District as the chief deputy clerk under Toliver Davis. He went to Charlotte, rented a room, and commuted to Boiling Springs on weekends. Later he and Bettye bought a condominium in Charlotte; however, Boiling Springs remained their home. When Davis was appointed as a federal judge, Tom was appointed as the clerk and served in that capacity until he retired at the end of 1993. After Tom retired from the courts, they moved back to their home in Boiling Springs.


 Interviews with Bettye McGraw and Mitzi Johnson – Doris Banner

Updated: 2022, Noel T. Manning II

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