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John Graves, Aug. 6, 1920 - July 31, 2013

John Graves

Photo courtesy of Michael Berryhill

John Graves - A True Friend of the Brazos

“... But if you are built like me, neither the certainty of change, nor the need for it, nor any wry philosophy will keep you from feeling a certain enraged awe when you hear that a river that you've known always, and that all men of that place have known always back into the red dawn of men, will shortly not exist. A piece of river, anyhow, my piece ... They had not yet done more than survey the sites for the new dams, five between those two that had already risen during my life. But the squabbling had already begun between their proponents and those otherwise-minded types - bottonland farmers and ranchers whose holdings would be inundated, competitive utility companies shrilling "Socialism!" and big irrigationists downstream - who would make a noise before they lost, but who would lose. When someone official dreams up a dam, it generally goes in. Dams are ipso facto good all by themselves, like mothers and flags. Maybe you save a Dinosaur Monument from time to time, but in-between such salvations you lose ten Brazoses....

It was not my fight. That was not even my part of the country anymore; I had been living out of the state for years. I knew, though, that it might be years again before I got back with time enough on my hands to make the trip, and what I wanted to do was to wrap it up, the river, before what I and Hale and Santana the White Bear and Mr. Charlie Goodnight had known ended up down yonder under all the Criss-Crafts and the tinkle of portable radios. Or was that, maybe, an excuse for a childishness? What I wanted to do was to float my piece of the river again. All of it." Excerpt from chapter one, “Goodbye to a River”.


I had the great good fortune of spending 4 days in 1994 on the Pecos River in west Texas with John Graves. This was the type of Hard Scrabble country that John loved and we became friends. We paddled, fished and spent many pleasant evenings by the Brazos over the years. My friendship with John, Jane and their wonderful family is a gift and a blessing.

John loved the Brazos River and expressed that love beautifully in “Goodbye to a River”. He called our attention to the fact that the Brazos River that he had grown up fishing, hunting, canoeing and camping on was threatened by 5 proposed new dams. Thanks to John’s expression of concern, only one of those dams (Lake Granbury) became reality.

When I bought a beautiful piece of Brazos bottomland in 2000 and became concerned about the over allocation of Brazos water, I decided to write a Statement expressing those concerns. John empathized and agreed to edit my statement. John was supportive of Friends of the Brazos (FBR) -attending our first meeting, writing letters to State officials and filing individually along with FBR for a contested case hearing opposing the Brazos River Authority’s unprecedented water right application. He remained interested in updates on our activities.

The Brazos River, especially the Middle Brazos (John’s part) has suffered significant ecological damage - stream fragmentation, channel sedimentation, frequent golden algae blooms which devastate fish populations and significantly reduced instream flows.

In the “State of Rivers” edition of TPWD magazine a few years back, it mentions a book titled “How To Save A River, A Handbook For Citizen Action.” The author suggests to anyone wanting to be an advocate for a river: “ First, fall in love.” That’s what John Graves did more than fifty years ago. Now it’s our turn to save this wonderful place before it’s too late.

The Friends of the Brazos River is committed to restoring and preserving a clean, healthy, flowing Brazos River for present and future generations.  Everytime and everywhere we fight for the Brazos River, we’re honoring this great man and his timeless work.

Ed Lowe
Friends of the Brazos River 

John Graves' New York Times Obituary

John Graves' Ft. Worth Star Telegram Obituary

John Graves letters in support of FBR

Texas Monthly - John Graves: An Appreciation

Texas Monthly - John Graves Stories (1977-2006)

FBR memorial donations, memberships



















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