John Meredith Graham II was born in Rome, Georgia on December 23, 1905 and became a leader in the art world of ceramics, early American furniture, American silver, and pewter until his death in December 1982. He was educated at Darlington School, Washington and Lee University, and the Sorbonne (University of Paris).
John and his sister Eleanor (later Eleanor Glover) were the children of Lila Huntington Berry (younger sister of Martha Berry) and Samuel Lowery Graham of Pinewood, Tennessee. The Graham home place was directly across Highway 27 from the Berry Presidential home (Virginia Webb House) and was part of the present main entrance to the college.
John Graham II served for many years on the curatorial staff of the Brooklyn Museum and afterwards, was employed by Colonial Williamsburg as Director of Collections and Curator for 17 years until his retirement in 1969. During this time, John also served as interior decorator for Jacqueline Kennedy during the White House renovations of the Kennedy Administration of 1961 to 1963. Upon retirement, John served as advisor to the Campbell Museum (Campbell Soup Company) of Camden, New Jersey.
Over the years, John acquired knowledge from these major American historical institutions and assembled his own extraordinary collection of paintings, and decorative arts. His collection included American nineteenth century paintings, American and English late seventeenth century to early nineteenth century furniture of high caliber, earthenware ceramics, elaborate eighteenth century Wedgewood, and English Continental porcelain.
John also collected early American nineteenth century paintings including works of Asher B. Durand, John F. Kensett, Thomas Chambers, Frances Clark, Robert Loftin Newman, and W.A. Miller, John Peto, and Leon Moran. Among the collection was also an exceptionally fine nineteenth century landscape painting called “Wind River Valley, Wyoming” by Albert Bierstadt. This painting was later sold to Ted Turner and Jane Fonda where they displayed it in their Montana ranch home.
Publications of Mr. Graham included Wedgewood: A living Tradition, by John M. Graham II and Hensleigh Cecil Wedgewood (1948), The Campbell Museum Collection (1969), American Pewter (1949), A Method of Museum Registration (1964), and Popular Art in America (1939).
The John Meredith Graham II collection has been featured in the Birmingham Museum of Art and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.