More Mad Men & Women at the Peace Corps

I thought I might continue with a few more tales of Mad Men & Women at the Peace Corps in the early days when Headquarters was located in the Maiatico Building across from the White House and the agency had more clout in D.C. than it would ever have again.

As we know the agency attracted to Washington the ‘best and the brightest,’ all of them wanting to work in the Kennedy Administration, with the majority wanting to work at the Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps also attracted Republicans and one of them was Richard (Dick) Graham from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who worked with Bill Moyers as the Deputy Associate Director for Public Affairs. Dick Graham was one of the nicest guys to work at the Peace Corps, a selfless self-made millionaire in the days when being a millionaire meant real money.

Dick had his Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree from Cornell University, graduating in 1942 and going directly into the army. During the war, he was in Andimesk in the Zagros Mountains of Iran constructing roads, buildings, and installed power and water systems.

Coming home, he joined his father’s firm, then struck out on his own and started an electronics company (Jordan Controls). Just before the Peace Corps years, he designed and constructed the atomic reactor controls for the first atom-powered U.S. merchant ship, the Savannah.

Yet working for Moyers in Public Affairs was a nature. As he said about his own company, he was his own advertising manager-writing releases, holding sales meetings, editing the house organ-all the kinds of things one does in recruiting.

From the Peace Corps HQ, Dick would go onto become a CD in North Africa before moving, ‘In, Up and Out.” Later in his life he was President of Goddard College.  

Dick was famous around the Peace Corps for many things; one was his daily commute on a bicycle to and from Georgetown. In the early ’60s only kids rode bikes. He was also well known for his kindness to others.

Dick Elwell, an early evaluator, tells the story of coming to the Peace Corps in its first days and being interviewed by Graham. “Dick was sitting on a box in the middle of a cluttered room and I sat on a box. Dick asked me where I was living. I said, “Well, that’s a good question. Nowhere exactly.” Graham replied immediately, ‘Oh, well, then, just move in with us.”

That is how it was in those early days at the Peace Corps. You might have to sit on a box when you were interviewed for a job, but at least you had a place to stay.

3 Comments

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  • I liked this little story of another Mad Man. My sister and I sat at the same table at which you were sitting that Saturday morning at the Mayflower. It was such a thrilling experience to hear not only Moyers and Wofford — as well as our ‘young’ Massachusetts-mate, Mark Gearan (we’re from the same town of 19,000 people; his father was our high school principal and his cousin is my oldest and best friend) — but all of the other people to whom we were introduced that morning. Celeste (Torrens) and I were exhilirated by the morning, being old enough to recognize the real thing when we hear it.
    Thank you.
    Nathalie Weeks

  • Thanks John…brings back good memories of the Maiatico building, otherwise known as 806 Conn. Ave! In the 60’s it was fun to see who would be getting on board one of the elevators run by a team of operators that kept you on your toes. You could be Sarge or Jack Vaughn…but you had to be nice to the great ladies that ran the elevators. Or Ron the mail clerk for Latin America who went on to retire from Peace Corps in 2001. Write more John…Bob

  • John!

    A suprememly gifted guy, Graham, a perfect example of of someone who served his country in war and peace. His wife, too, was a gem.

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