Frank Porter Graham

Southern Liberal, Citizen of the World

By William A. Link

Published in association with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 30 halftones, notes, bibl

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6493-4
    Published: October 2021
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6494-1
    Published: October 2021
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5379-0
    Published: October 2021

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Awards & distinctions

Honorable Mention, 2021 New Deal Book Award, The Living New Deal

Frank Porter Graham (1886–1972) was one of the most consequential white southerners of the twentieth century. Born in Fayetteville and raised in Charlotte, Graham became an active and popular student leader at the University of North Carolina. After earning a graduate degree from Columbia University and serving as a marine during World War I, he taught history at UNC, and in 1930, he became the university’s fifteenth president. Affectionately known as “Dr. Frank,” Graham spent two decades overseeing UNC’s development into a world-class public institution. But he regularly faced controversy, especially as he was increasingly drawn into national leadership on matters such as intellectual freedom and the rights of workers. As a southern liberal, Graham became a prominent New Dealer and negotiator and briefly a U.S. senator. Graham’s reputation for problem solving through compromise led him into service under several presidents as a United Nations mediator, and he was outspoken as a white southerner regarding civil rights.

Brimming with fresh insights, this definitive biography reveals how a personally modest public servant took his place on the national and world stage and, along the way, helped transform North Carolina.

Published in association with The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library

About the Author

William A. Link is Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History at the University of Florida.

For more information about William A. Link, visit the Author Page.


“In [this] well-researched biography, [Frank Porter] Graham emerges as more complex and human, and his career exposes the limitations of white liberalism in the post–World War II South. . . . A well-crafted and thoughtful account.”—Journal of Southern History

“Well researched and well written, this important biography gives a full picture of the life and legacy of the avatar of twentieth-century southern liberalism.”—Kevin M. Kruse, co-author of Fault Lines: A History of America since 1974

“This fascinating biography of one of the most important figures in twentieth-century North Carolina is a significant contribution that promises to rejuvenate the study of white southern liberals.” – Jennifer Ritterhouse, author of Discovering the South: One Man’s Travels Through a Changing America in the 1930s

"Explains how Graham’s talents as a negotiator and his genuine belief that there was good to be found in almost everybody opened doors for him to influence a wide variety of people. Graham was the inspiration of a generation of North Carolina liberal political leaders including Kerr Scott, Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt. Even today, it is hard to understand North Carolina’s political divides without knowing the history of Frank Graham."--D.G. Martin