David Crockett Graham (1884-1961), missionary, educator, curator, author, and field collector, was born at Green Forest, Arkansas. He received a B. A. from Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington, in 1908. Graham then attended Rochester (New York) Theological Seminary (now Colgate Rochester Divinity School), where he completed his studies in 1911, and from which he received his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1916. Graham was ordained to the Baptist ministry in the First Baptist Church at Freeport, New York, on April 8, 1911. Shortly afterward, Graham entered the service of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.
Graham and his wife, Alicia May Morey Graham, departed for China from San Francisco in the fall of 1911. They first stopped briefly in Shanghai in order to acquaint themselves with the Chinese language and culture. They were further delayed there by the outbreak of the 1911 revolution which toppled the Manchu dynasty. Finally in the fall of 1912, the Grahams made their way to the city of Suifu (now Yibin) in the province of Szechuan (Sichuan), where they were stationed for the next twenty years. At Suifu, Graham gradually assumed responsibility for missionary work and continued his study of the Chinese language, completing a five-year course then given to missionaries. Included in this course were the Three-Word Classic, the four books of Confucius and Mencius, the Sacred Edict, the Fortunate Union, and the Five Classics of Confucius.
In the fall of 1918, Graham attended the Divinity School at the University of Chicago for a year of postgraduate study. His studies included, in addition to religious education, the world's great religions, the history of religion, and the psychology of religion. Further courses taken at Chicago in the fall of 1926 during a year of doctoral study covered anthropology, ethnology, and psychology of primitive peoples and religions. Graham's dissertation, "Religions in Szechuan Province, China," was published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1928. In the spring of 1931 Graham took anthropology courses under Fay-Cooper Cole of the University of Chicago. From 1931 to 1932, Graham took courses in archeology, ethnology, physical and cultural anthropology, and the methods of research at Harvard University. In 1929, Graham was made Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society of London.
In 1919 shortly before his return to China after a year of postgraduate study, Graham visited the Smithsonian Institution (S.I.) to offer to collect for the United States National Museum (USNM) natural history specimens from Szechuan during his summer vacations and spare time from missionary work. The USNM agreed to provide supplies and some financial support to pay for expenses. During the period from 1919 to 1939, Graham made fourteen summer expeditions in Szechuan, the Szechuan-Tibetan region, and the Szechuan-Yunnan region, and several short field collecting trips in the vicinities of Suifu, and Chengtu. The specimens he sent to the USNM were mostly mammals, birds, insects, snakes, and anthropological relics. In addition, he sent anthropological measurements of Chinese people, and Chinese aborigines common in Szechuan such as the Ch'uan Miao, Ch'iang, Lolo, and the Bolstoi people, as well as their costumes and handicrafts.
Graham kept diaries detailing his activities, mostly during the 1924 to 1935 period. The areas Graham traveled included Tatsienlu (Kangding), Mount Omei (Emei Shan), the Washan, Moupin, Ningyuenfu, Yachow (Ya'an), Kiating (Jiajiang), Mowchow, Chuan Gio Chi, Chungking (Chongqing), Fu Lin, Kongshien, Li Chuang, Wen Chuan Hsien, Songpan, and Tibet. Graham employed and trained Chinese and Chinese aborigines to collect specimens for him. In recognition of Graham's work, the USNM appointed Graham a collaborator in biology, an honorary title, on October 31, 1931.
In 1932, Graham was transferred to Chengtu (now Chengdu), the capital of Szechuan, where he was stationed until the spring of 1948. There, he taught archaeology and anthropology at the West China Union University and was also Curator of the West China Union University Museum of Archaeology, Art, and Ethnology.
Graham was interested in the culture of the Chinese aborigines in Szechuan, mostly the Ch'uan Miao, and the Ch'iangs. Since becoming acquainted with the Ch'uan Miao in 1921, Graham was a principal figure in encouraging the Chinese government to establish schools in their homelands. One of Graham's Ch'uan Miao students at the missionary school in Suifu became a trapper and collector for the SI Graham participated in the studies of the Ch'iangs under the directions of the National Ministry of Education of China, and the Border Service Bureau of the Church of Christ, during 1941 and 1942.
After returning to the United States in 1948, Graham traveled for a year lecturing on his experiences. He retired to Englewood, Colorado, where he prepared his books on the songs, folklore, and folk religions of the Ch'uan Miao and the Ch'iangs. These books were published by the Smithsonian Institution. Graham died in Denver on September 15, 1961.