Many know him as “the Peach Man,” as that is the name he’s been given by those who stop by his truck on a sweltering summer day in Jacksonville to purchase mouthwatering Chilton County peaches. However, Glen Graham has worn a number of hats throughout his lifetime, including a graduation cap from Jacksonville State University.
Hauling peaches from his hometown of Clanton to Jacksonville began when Graham was a nineteen year-old student at JSU. While Graham was working as a resident assistant, some faculty found out that he was from Chilton County and involved in the peach farms down there. He, in turn, found out that they liked peaches and agreed to bring them some. That one basket of peaches Graham brought back to Jacksonville began to increase to five, then to ten, then to thirty or forty more baskets. Thirty-three years later, Graham sometimes has to bring two vehicles packed to the brim with peaches; he usually sells out each trip to Jacksonville.
Decades of selling peaches has allowed him to stay connected to his alma mater and also provided him with entertaining stories to tell through the years, such as returning to his truck after running peaches into Bibb Graves Hall to find a young Dr. Bill Meehan, Larry Smith, and Dr. Alice Cusimano selling peaches for him.
Graham has an impeccable memory for recalling the names of his customers and always greets them with some classic southern hospitality, a kind word and an inquiry about their family.
Peach hauling has become a family business for the Grahams, as his wife, children, and late father have all been involved.
“Jacksonville has been good to me, it really has,” states Graham. “I’ve made a lot of friends up here through the years.”
He began his time at JSU majoring in business, dropped out for a time, but returned to graduate with a degree in physical education. Like many things in his life, his time studying business came full circle and has benefited him during his time selling peaches. After his time at JSU, Graham went on to receive his master’s degree from Oregon State University.
He has coached for a total of twenty-eight years, including eighteen at Isabella High School in Maplesville. He retired briefly during 2012, during which time he taught an adjunct class at JSU that took a group of students to the state Special Olympics, an organization in which he was actively involved for about ten and a half years.
His connection to the Special Olympics organization began in January 1986, while teaching at a school for children with disabilities. Graham even had the opportunity to coach at three of the International Special Olympics games, carrying him to such places as Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Yale University.
“Special Olympics gives children and adults (ages) eight to eighty who don’t always get a lot of opportunities to showcase their talent,” explains Graham. “A lot of them are more capable than people give them credit for.”
“I’m a high school coach and a peach hauler,” Graham humbly describes himself, despite the fact that his work in the International Special Olympics has afforded him the opportunity to meet such celebrities as Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Kennedy Jr., and Bon Jovi. He even holds a personal letter from Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics.
After adjunct teaching at JSU during his retirement sabbatical, his heart for coaching called him back to Isabella High School.
In addition to the various hats he has worn, perhaps his most important roles are husband and father.
This July, he and his wife Leah will celebrate twenty-four years of marriage. She is also a native of Clanton, but was living in Ohio when her sister and a friend persuaded her to come down to Tuscaloosa, where Graham was coaching, to meet him. Ten months later, they were married.
The Grahams have two children, Sarah, a senior in high school who recently took first place in the half-mile at the 2A Alabama High School Association track competition, and Isaac, a freshman who is a spelling bee champion and has an interest in piano.
Graham is also actively involved in his church, West End Baptist Church, and was recently elected deacon.
Of his life, Graham states, “It’s just weird, in my life, God has just put me in places and brought me in circles that I never expected…its just kind of been happenings, but they have all been good happenings. A better plan than I had.”
About the photos: Top, Glen Graham on a recent campus visit. Above, Dorothy Quarles and Diane Marshall receive their Chilton County peaches from JSU alumnus and former adjunct, Glen Graham. (Angie Finley/JSU photos)