Lindsey Graham is following the route of serious presidential contenders, releasing an autobiography this week that details his upbringing in small-town South Carolina and how his political philosophy was shaped by his life and times.
“Everyone has a story,” Graham says in the opening line of “My Story.”
“Not everyone has to tell it, of course, and most people have the good sense not to. 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.”
The 126-page work is being released to the general public - for free - as an e-book on Wednesday by the Graham for President campaign.
E-books are considered a much quicker path into circulation than traditional hardback or paperback-book publishing. The Post and Courier obtained an early copy.
While Graham, the state’s senior U.S. senator, is listed as the author, its co-author is Mark Salter, former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the previous two-time presidential hopeful and Graham’s closest Senate ally.
Among Salter’s and McCain’s prior collaborations is “Faith of My Fathers,” McCain’s family memoir published in 2000.
Salter was also a senior adviser to both of McCain’s White House runs; Graham has known him for years.
Salter earlier this year was also known to have done numerous interviews around South Carolina, collecting stories about Graham from life-long friends and supporters.
The book traces Graham’s upbringing, his college years, the loss of both his parents at an early age, his Air Force career and his entry into politics, first in the S.C. Legislature.
“I was born in Seneca in Oconee County, in the same hospital, Oconee Memorial, where former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards was born,” he said. “I’ve joked that John and I were born in different wings of the hospital, he in the left wing and I in the right. I could also joke that I never went very far in life. I live in Seneca today, just a few miles from that hospital.”
One of the more colorful chapters is Graham describing growing up in a building that housed the family business, a pool hall.
“The most fascinating place in the world I grew up in was the poolroom in the basement of the bar, the scene of afterhours stake games on Saturday nights in the spring and summer. The games lasted from midnight until dawn and attracted the greatest collection of characters I’d ever seen assembled in one place,” he wrote.
“For a time, we were a regular stop on the southern pool circuit, the domain of professionals, hustlers who carried their cue sticks in cases and shot pool with style and an eye for suckers with money to lose. By the time I was twelve, my dad had me running the poolroom, but he took charge on those special Saturday nights when the professionals came to play.”
Graham’s supporters have long held that his modest upbringing would play well on the national front as voters see beyond his modern-day persona as Capitol Hill defense hawk. Both his parents died before he finished college and he became the legal guardian of his younger sister, Darline, making it through with the support of friends and family.
“We just kept plugging along until time and effort carried us from our troubles,” he wrote.
Graham said he felt he’d have a political career early on his life, but that not until the Reagan years did he become a cemented Republican.
“I didn’t have strong feelings one way or another either until Ronald Reagan became President,” he wrote. “I admired him even before I went to Europe, mostly for his appeals for a strong national defense. The geopolitical dramas I witnessed while stationed in Europe made me admire him all the more. You could see the difference his administration was making in those last days of the Cold War. You could see we were winning it.”
The book ends with Graham winning his first Congressional race, for the Upstate’s 3rd District. It does not go into his current Senate career or his role in the 1998 President Bill Clinton impeachment scandal, where Graham grew national attention as one of the House prosecutors.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551