Republican presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham will release an autobiography Wednesday called "My Story,” available for free download as an e-book from the 2016 presidential hopeful’s campaign.
The 126-page, first-person account lays out the moments and people who the 59-year-old Graham says shaped his life from boyhood to the launch of his political career.
“Everyone has a story. Not everyone has to tell it, of course, and most people have the good sense not to,” the Seneca Republican writes in the forward.
“But if you’re in my line of work, and the time arrives when you start imagining a big promotion, and you let your imagination get the better of you, you are by custom expected to give a general account of your life.”
Graham recalls what it was like growing up in Central, a small Upstate textile mill town where he lived with his family in the back of the bar, liquor store and pool hall that his parents owned. He talks about his parents’ deaths, 15 months apart and taking on the responsibility of his little sister Darline.
Graham's brand of folksy humor is evident throughout the narrative, meant to be an "impressionistic" retelling of the people and places that impacted him over the years.
He describes his younger self as verbose and mischievous, hanging out in the bar or on the sidewalk "entertaining our customers and myself."
Graham also recalls some grittier details from his childhood.
A wisecracking performer, Graham earned the nickname "Stinkball" from customers at his parents' bar.
"When customers went to the restroom, I might steal their beer and chug it. I might smoke their cigarette, too, if they left it burning in the ashtray."
Graham said it was the kind of upbringing that, today, probably would lead to parents losing custody of their children.
"But it was a great way to grow up. It was a great life. Really."
Eventually, Graham's father let him help out in the pool hall, where patrons would bet on games – an illegal activity the local sheriff, who frequented the bar, overlooked. Graham also recalls his father beating rowdy patrons with a helmet he kept behind the counter.
Graham said he never felt underprivileged or that he was "missing out on something" because he and his parents lived in a single room in the back of the family business, sharing a bathroom with customers and bathing in a metal wash basin.
"From my point of view, I lived in bountiful circumstances. I could have anything we sold in the bar for a snack ... anything I wanted, anytime I wanted it, a luxury that greatly impressed my school friends."
Graham recalls a couple of moments in his life when he was the catalyst for major changes in his family.
One was when he was in high school and his parents “decided to end the informal discrimination we had tolerated at the bar.”
Graham recalls that happened after he heard his sister Darline, “probably no more than (7 years old),” use the "N word one day. She didn’t even think the term was offensive. She had heard it used so often.”
Graham said he went to his parents “and asked them to make a change. They agreed. The next time a black customer came into the place, my mom opened a bottle of beer, set it down on the bar, and motioned for him to take a stool.”
The Grahams lost their regular customers. “The bar was segregated again in reverse, and it seemed to happen in a flash,” Graham recalls.
After Graham’s parents died, it was “clear to everyone that I was Darline’s guardian,” Graham writes, adding he gave her permission for activities with friends or at school, gave her spending money and advice, set her curfews and grounded her if she came home and smelled like tobacco or beer.
“Most of all, I made sure she knew every day that I would always care about her and protect her.”
On why he picked the University of South Carolina, instead of nearby Clemson University, Graham said USC accepted him with his average grades and 800 SAT score. Graham said he also “loved Carolina basketball,” and his family could afford the in-state tuition.
Recalling his military service, Graham writes about how he was stationed with the U.S. Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base, preparing administrative discharges, when he came across a drug-related case that would change his career.
After traces of marijuana were found in their blood of six victims of a aircraft crash, the military launched a zero-tolerance drug policy, prompting what Graham calls the “golden flow” of urine samples.
While working defending enlisted men accused of drug use, Graham exposed how results coming from the military lab that tested urine samples were unreliable – the lab was poorly managed and technology was inadequate.
His work, which put him at odds with the military, eventually led to the Air Force to re-examine the program, Graham writes. It also landed him in the national television spotlight.
While serving in Germany, Graham said he gained experience as a courtroom prosecutor, trying airmen on cases including “some very bad things” — murder, rape, drugs, espionage and child abuse.
Graham also pays tribute to men he knew in uniform who died while serving overseas.
In private practice in South Carolina, Graham said he worked primarily on family court cases. However, he became well known in his community for winning a medical malpractice lawsuit on behalf of a man who was paralyzed after hospital treatment.
Graham said he parlayed that “modest public recognition” into a political career, winning first a seat in the S.C. House, then a congressional seat and, finally, succeeding longtime U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond. He touches only briefly on the role that he played as a House prosecutor in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
Graham’s personal life has been the subject of much media attention in recent weeks. An unmarried president is rare. (James Buchanan was the only president to remain a life-long bachelor.)
Graham spends a couple of paragraphs talking about the two serious relationships he had while he was deployed overseas.
On being single, Graham writes, "I've never married. I attribute that to timing, too. The opportunity never presented itself at the right time, or I never found time to meet the right girl, or the right girl was smart enough not to have time for me. I haven't been lucky that way. But I have a family."
Reach Self at (803) 771-8658