GRAVES Ernest Graves, Jr. Lt. Gen. US Army (Ret.) Lt. Gen. Ernest Graves, Jr., (US Army, ret.) died in his home in Arlington, VA, on May 21, 2019, from natural causes, lovingly attended by his wife of 68 years, Nancy Barclay Graves. Gen. Graves served in the U.S. Army 37 years. He brought exceptional scientific, engineering, administrative and leadership skills to diverse assignments in civil and military engineering, weapons development and deployment, and the national and international relations required for success of the United States in all these areas. "Ernie" Graves was born July 6, 1924, in New York City. He was the only son of Brig. Gen. Ernest Graves (ret.) and Lucy Birnie Graves. When he was two years old, Ernie's family moved to Washington, DC, where he spent the rest of his childhood. He graduated from St. Albans School in 1941. His scientific and engineering education began at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated number 2 academically. His father (class of 1905) and maternal grandfather (Rogers Birnie, class of 1872) both also were USMA graduates. He subsequently attended the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Annapolis, MD, and in 1951 earned a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from M.I.T. Other schooling included the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, KS (1958), the Army War College in Carlisle, PA (1964), and the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University (1968) Gen. Graves's military engineer deployments started in 1945 and 1946 in England, France, Germany, and Japan. From 1951 until 1954 Ernie served in the office of the Chief of Staff of SHAPE in Paris, France, where he worked on airfield construction throughout Western Europe. This was later followed by Korea in 1958-59 (Commander, 44th Engineer Battalion), and then Vietnam in 1968-69 (Commander, 34th Engineer Group). Gen. Graves was deeply involved in the development of the nation's nuclear military programs. During 1946 and 1947, he was assigned to Sandia Base, Albuquerque, NM, where he was involved in development and testing of early weapons. From 1955-1957 he was the Chief of the Training Section of the Nuclear Power Branch at Ft. Belvoir, VA. Between 1959 and 1964 Graves worked on the effort to develop peaceful uses of nuclear explosives. The most salient such idea was to build a sea-level canal across the isthmus of Panama, which ultimately proved infeasible. This work was undertaken mostly at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Livermore, CA. From 1973 to 1975, Graves was Director of Military Application in the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, DC. Graves's most powerful ambition had always been civil engineering, however, and he had a variety of increasingly responsible assignments in the Corps of Engineers. The earliest of these was Deputy District Engineer in Los Angeles in 1961. From 1969-70 Graves was Deputy Director of Military Construction in the Office of the Chief of Engineers in Washington, DC. Following that, until 1973, he was Division Engineer of the North Central Division in Chicago, IL. Two years later, in 1975, he got the job he had first dreamed of getting when he was a boy - Director of Civil Works for the Corps. He took one further step in the Corps when he became Deputy Director of the Corps in 1977. In 1978, Gen. Graves filled what was to be his last active duty position - Director of the Defense Security Assistance Agency. In that role he oversaw all U.S. arms sales to foreign governments. Many aspects of this assignment were political as well as military. Much of Graves's attention in his three years there was directed at supporting the Camp David accords, which achieved peace between Israel and Egypt. In 1981 Graves retired from active duty as a Lieutenant General. During his illustrious career he earned many honors and awards. These included the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star, two Air Medals and an Army Commendation Medal. In retirement, Gen. Graves worked as a consultant for the Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, and for Burdeshaw and Associates. He also became active in the governance of the Army Navy Country Club, where he chaired committees responsible for the construction of new clubhouses at both the Fairfax and Arlington locations. Gen. Graves loved his family, and despite his demanding career he and Nancy devoted themselves to raising their children with the same values of education, integrity and professionalism that characterized their own lives. Ernie loved golf and spent many of his scarce free hours teaching his children the game. Rude conduct on the links was not tolerated - family foursomes on the first tee sometimes became twosomes (or less) by the eighteenth. Ernie Graves never fit any stereotype of a brash general. He was brilliant yet unassuming, and he treated everyone with the utmost courtesy and respect. He was a true gentleman, and he will be greatly missed. Gen. Graves is survived by his wife, Nancy, his sons Col. Ralph Graves (US Army, ret.) (Carol - Lt. Col. US Army, ret.), Robert Graves (Linda - Maj. US Army, ret.), and William Graves (Debbie), his daughter, Lt. Col. Emily Graves-Odria (US Army, ret.) (Luis), seven grandchildren and five great-grandsons. A memorial service will be held at the Ft. Myer Old Post Chapel, with interment at Arlington National Cemetery, at a date to be announced. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Army Emergency Relief, 2530 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA 22202 ( Condolences and tributes may be offered at
Published by The Washington Post on May 26, 2019.
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4 Entries
RIP Ernie.
Frank Titus
September 22, 2021
Nancy: Our most sincere condolences. We are in St Augustine until 19 June, hence just learned of the sad news. Ernie and I were in both Korea(58-59) and Viet Nam(68-69) together.I too will miss a wonderful friend. Pray that you will still help me at my 90th as you both did at my 80th. Lots of love, Carolyn & Bob Wallace
June 2, 2019
Ernie was a my Group Commander in Vietnam Nd helped select me for the study of nuclear physics at MIT. I ADMIRED HIM ALWAYS. MAY GOD BLEES HIM.LTG ERNIE PEIXOTTO
Ernest Peixotto
May 31, 2019
What a great man. He will be missed. Our best to Nancy and the Graves family
Barbara and Richard Little
May 26, 2019
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