More about Red & Peggy Graham

Robert "Red" Graham, who was known as the “Charitable Emcee” for more than two decades, from 1972-1996, for devoting his services to many of the country’s top charitable organizations by performing benefit shows with his wife, Peggy, and never accepting a dime, was also owner of Red Graham’s Minuteman Travel, a business that ran for more than 50 years in Westport, and also co-owner of Westport-based WMMM-AM radio for more than 10 years.

Graham was a multi-talented athlete, entertainer and businessman along the way. His theatrical background goes back to his early childhood when he appeared in school plays at Fordham Prep and Mount Saint Michael’s Academy, both in the Bronx, New York. He was also listed as the Mount’s first quarterback in 1932.

Young QuarterBack

His show business flare followed “Red” through college. While at Rutgers University, where he played freshman football in 1933, he was the recipient of the “Queens Players Award,” an honor that afforded him the chance to make guest appearances with Ozzie Nelson, George Olsen and Johnny Long orchestras.

Later, Graham attended the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he played football for legendary coach Don Faurot, and was the leader of his own dance band. His group won top honors in “Downbeat” magazine for being the best college orchestra in the Midwest. The selection resulted in “The Red Graham Orchestra” being booked on the famed “Major Bowes” radio program, and on Cunard Line cruises.

On the football field, Graham was also an outstanding athlete, being named the fastest back in the Midwest in 1936 when attending Missouri State Teachers College, in Kirksville, Mo. He later played professional football as a pre-NFL’er (1938-1941) for Rochester, N.Y, in the American Association, Charlotte, N..C, in the Dixie League, and for other teams in Danbury, Conn., and Newark, N.J.

Red with Football

He was an active member in the National Football League’s Alumni Association. Graham was also the recipient of the “Sportsman of the Year” award by the Sportsmen of Westport in the early 1980s.
He was also an accomplished single and doubles tennis player, winning numerous tournaments and club championships while he was a member of the Weston Field Club, Longshore Club, Shore and Country Club in Norwalk, and the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport.

In the Army Air Corps, during World War II, Graham was assigned to the soldier shows department. He had his own radio program, and appeared with many of the top named bands on war bonds shows. While stationed at Scott Field, in Belleville, Ill., Graham also produced, directed and acted in numerous soldier shows, most notable among them were “The Eve of St. Mark,” “Sad Sack,” and “Hi, Yank.”
Graham also wrote several spectaculars, including “The Eddie Cantor Show.”

Red in Action

The role that “Red” Graham is best remembered for is that of “Archie the Manager” in the Air Corp series of “Duffy’s Tavern.” In civilian life, after the war, Graham teamed up with Ed Gardner, one of the originators of the great radio hit, to create story and script ideas in the early 1940s at the private Longshore Club in Westport, and at the Virgin Island Hilton, in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.

After the war, Graham was discharged as a first lieutenant, upon which he interviewed with the founder of International Business Machines, Thomas J. Watson, Sr., and was hired as an executive.
He later became IBM general sales manager for all of New York City, and later became IBM national director of all rehabilitation programs, based in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

After 33 years with IBM, Graham opted for the “early retirement program,” which enabled him to embark on another career as “The Charitable Emcee” with his wife of 37 years, Peggy.
Margaret Parkhurst “Peggy” Graham and Robert A. Graham married in 1960, second marriages for both. During their time together performing, he performed standup comedy and a skit from “Duffy’s Tavern,” and she sang standard op songs of the day.
Together, they performed 692 shows around the country and overseas, and were on their second 50 states when they stopped in 1996. Any money or payments offered to them were immediately put back in that charity’s coffers.

Peggy & Red

“Red” Graham was rated as one of the country’s top benefit show emcees, having worked with such organizations as Multiple Sclerosis, Easter Seals, American Cancer Society, the Heart Fund, the Shriners, numerous veterans hospitals, handicapped organizations, prisons, rehabilitation centers, associations for the blind and senior citizens.
Graham was also very involved with the United Cerebral Palsy organization, having appeared numerous times on the national telethon with host Dennis James.

In these benefits, Graham appeared with such names as Art Carney, Alana King, Darren McGavin, Milton Berle, Leslie Uggams, Joan Rivers, Jack Carter, Bette Davis, June Havoc, Vic Damone, Helen O’Connell, Pat Cooper and Rodney Dangerfield.

During his career, Graham offered his services to many charitable and community organizations, serving on the board of directors for University of Missouri Alumni Association, where there is a scholarship in his name that is offered to incoming freshmen, the Touchdown Club of America, the Federation of the Handicapped, the Westport Country Playhouse and the Westport Weston YMCA, and the President’s Committee for People with Disabilities in Washington, D.C.
Graham was chairman of the board for WSTC-AM, WYRS-FM, in Stamford, and WREM-AM, in Orlando, Fla. He was also co-owner and president of WMMM-AM, in Westport. His father Robert A. Graham, Sr., founded Town & Country Travel in Westport in 1951, and he continued the business as “Red Graham’s Minuteman Travel” until it closed in 2000.

Red with Family

While playing the role of “The Charitable Emcee,” “Red” Graham received many honors, including Man of the Year from United Cerebral Palsy and the University of Missouri. He received the President’s Appreciation Award, and the keys to numerous cities where he and his wife performed. He was also a member of the New York Friars Club for nearly two decades.

When asked why they spent so much time on the road doing their shows at their own expense, Graham said, “the man upstairs has been good to us, and we are trying to pay him back a little. A person is never so tall as when he or she stoops to help someone who needs help.”