A native of Little Rock, Graves is a history and political science professor at Henderson State University. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia and his M.A. and B.A. degrees in history from the University of Arkansas. His principal area of scholarly specialization has been the study of race relations in Arkansas during the latter half of the 19th and the early 20th century.
His pioneering master's thesis constituted the first scholarly investigation of the origins of racial segregation and Jim Crow practices in Arkansas. It was also the first scholarly work to identify the fact that Arkansas's 1891 Election Law served as an instrument for political disfranchisement, driving many poor and illiterate persons, both black and white, from the polls.
Graves was a strong supporter of the Arkansas State Archives and the Department of Arkansas Heritage. In addition to BHCA, Graves served on numerous boards and societies that support Arkansas history, including the official State of Arkansas Advisory Board of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and the Arkansas Historical Association, once serving as its president.
He was a founding member of the Mosaic Templars Building Preservation Society and was instrumental in spearheading a successful sixteen-year effort to restore and reconstruct the historic Mosaic Templars of America Headquarters Building in Little Rock and create the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.
More recently, Graves and other officers of the preservation society have worked with Stacy Hurst, director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, and with representatives of Gov. Asa Hutchinson to secure the Mosaic State Temple building, which adjoins the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.
Dr. Wendy Richter has been grateful for Graves' support of ASA through the BHCA. “During Dr. Graves' tenure, the Commission conducted and funded many projects important to preserving our state's history,” said Richter. “He played an integral role in making all of that happen. His service has been invaluable.”
In recognition of the above activities, he was awarded his department's first endowed named chair, the Edgar and Marguerite Henley Professorship in American History.
On his time with BHCA, Dr. Graves expressed it best: "What a pleasure it has been to have had the opportunity of serving with such a fine group of people over so many years. It has truly been one of the great honors of my life."