City donates deGraffenried portrait to school system
By Jim Turner

Posted on March 27, 2014 11:52 PM

The only known portrait of benefactor Thomas P. deGraffenried was unveiled at the Grand Opening of the Logan County Public Library on Russellville’s West Sixth Street on Aug. 6, 1967. That portrait, which hung in the deGraffenried Room of the library for over four decades, now belongs to the Russellville Independent Schools.

At the March meeting of the city school board, Mayor Mark Stratton and five members of the city council were present to donate the portrait to the schools. It came into the city’s possession when the library opened in its new location on Armory Drive Feb. 3.

Board Chairman James Milam accepted the gift on behalf of the school system. That was appropriate, since his dad, attorney G. Sam Milam, served as executor of the deGraffenried Legacy, and his mother, Justine Milam, was a leader of the library board as the 1960s building became a reality and services grew.

Money donated to the city of Russellville by native son deGraffenried has been used for a number of educational projects, including $200,000 in 1966 for construction of deGraffenried Auditorium and adjacent lobby as part of the Russellville High School building; $125,000 for construction of the vocational school; $200,000 for scholarship grants and loans; and $175,000 for an interest-drawing account to support of cultural enrichment programs..

Information on the relationship involving the city, the public library and Mr. deGraffenried was written in a history of Logan County Public Library, written by retired regional librarian Evelyn Richardson. A four-part series of the results of her research can still be read in January Guest Articles of The Logan Journal.  Excerpts from that history follow:

*The portrait was painted by Baltimore artist Frank Ryan, brother-in-law of Ross Dowden, manager of the Western Auto store in Russellville for a number of years. Mr. Ryan was provided a photograph of Mr. deGraffenried that included another man whose identity is unknown. Mr. deGraffenried was holding his hat in his hand. For the portrait, Mr. Ryan appropriately substituted a book in his right hand, knowing that the portrait would hang in the Logan County Public Library. Cost of the portrait was paid from the City of Russellville’s deGraffenried fund.

*One of the many “seeds” newspaperman Al Smith planted to grow this idea of community progress was his choosing the theme of the 1960 annual Tobacco Festival tabloid publication to reflect the history of Russellville and Logan County as an education and cultural center. A copy of this tabloid was mailed to a number of people beyond the usual subscription list who Mr. Smith thought might find it interesting. Included was Thomas Pritchett deGraffenried, a Russellville native and successful lawyer who lived in New York. He was a graduate of Bethel College and it was felt that he would enjoy a feature article on the college that was in the tabloid.

No communication transpired regarding this gesture until in 1961, after Mr. deGraffenried’s death, his estate attorney notified the City of Russellville that he had willed the City nearly one million dollars “to be used for the education of the people at large therein.”

G. Sam Milam, local attorney, was appointed to administer this legacy. Mr. Milam’s wife, Justine, who worked in his office, was one of those ladies on the first library Board/Committee who raffled a table in 1940 to raise the first funds for public library service. Her appreciation for libraries had not lessened over the years, and she with others of like mind saw this windfall of money, designated for “education,” as a means of getting an “educational institution”—a library—for “all of the people at large therein” –a supplemental partner with the school system to reach all citizens.

*Funds for construction, furnishings, and equipment came from three sources. At that time, money was available from the Federal government under the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) to help build libraries, and a grant of $100,000 was awarded to Logan County. The State of Kentucky contributed $18,620, and $75,000 from the deGraffenried bequest supplied the required local match. Total cost was $193,620.

*In order to clarify legalities related to the deGraffenried legacy and requirements of the Kentucky Department of Libraries, the City of Russellville would own the Thomas P. deGraffenried Memorial Library building which would house the Logan County Public Library and its services.

*Use of the library increased rapidly and the need for expanded facilities was soon evident. In 1974, a 4,820-square-foot addition brought the total square footage to 11,538. Cost of the addition was $167,826, with all funds coming from a loan from the deGraffenried legacy, paid back with amortization grants of $10,000 a year from the State for a period of 20 years. Open house for the addition was held Sept. 28, 1975.

*Ownership of the Sixth Street library building by the City of Russellville was an arrangement made in order legally to use funds for construction from the deGraffenried bequest to the City “for the education of the people at large therein.” The deGraffenried Building would house the Logan County Public Library. The Library Board would be totally responsible for its maintenance and operation.

While this was an innovative idea, the arrangement has later proven to be a disadvantage in financial respects. The Board has no equity, limiting the borrowing of money. More importantly, grants from the State Department for Libraries and Archives for building expansion and repair and for a variety of materials and service grants require that the Board own the building. The Department “bent the rules” many times for Logan County, but as money became tighter, the competing counties that fully met the requirements have received the grants.  

Shown in the school board photo, from left, are school board member Davonna Page, Mayor Mark Stratton, and board members David Corbin, James Milam, Lovis Patterson and Phillip West.

Shown in the city council photo, from left, are council members Bill Decker, Pat Walpole Bell and Darlene Gooch, Mayor Mark Stratton, Councilman Jack Whipple, Board Chair James Milam and Councilman Jimmy Davenport. Photos by Alicia Carmichael

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