Gordon Thomas Graves

January 13, 1937 ~ September 21, 2021 (age 84)


     Gordon Thomas Graves, of South Padre Island, Texas, passed away at 9:30 AM, September 21, 2021 at his residence in Harrisburg, Illinois.

     Gordon was born on January 13, 1937 in Crowell, Texas to the late Grady and Dannie (Pegeas) Graves. Gordon married Linda (Powell) Absher on February 13, 2014 and she survives in Harrisburg.  Gordon graduated from the University of Texas in 1959 and received his MBA from the University of Texas in 1971. Gordon was an Electrical Engineer who was known as the Father of Indian Gaming by designing a machine that changed the face of Indian gaming. He was very proud of his contribution to the Indian tribes. He changed their lives. He was a member of the Lottery Hall of Fame. Gordon was also the head engineer on the military project to allow the U-2 to gain greater altitude by integrating an inertial guidance system into the Doppler radar.

Gordon loved to travel, and he loved his family; in his later years became an avid golfer. He had a poker group he adored; a book club that he enjoyed; he was a karaoke king and a mason. He was an audience pleaser. With his smile, he charmed everyone. He was an honest, hardworking, loyal, gentleman. Gordon was a generous philanthropist. Years ago he set up the Graves Foundation which gives large donations each year to worthy charities. He was given the honor of having a gymnasium named after him in the new Mercy Ship which was just christened. He also initiated a wonderful scholarship to students in Harrisburg and Carrier Mills because he loved this area and wanted to encourage higher education. In his home town of Crowell, the foundation is active with food banks and education, also. He loved his family with all his heart. He was a proud fifth generation Texan with his roots in Crowell and Austin, but he took Harrisburg to his heart, and he loved being part of this small community. He was a man among men. Our hearts are broken.

     Gordon is survived by his wife Linda Graves of Harrisburg, four children, Steve Graves and wife Liliana of Cedar Park, Texas; Brenda Graves Hammond and husband Blake of Colorado City, Texas; Beth Graves Tarter and husband David of Wichita Falls, Texas; and Jody Graves Wood and husband David of Crowell, Texas; two step children, Bryan Absher and wife Sara of Bloomington, Indiana; and Leslee Brooks and husband Chris of Marion, Illinois; seventeen grandchildren, Kristen (Watt) Daniel,Arturo (Cinthia) Perez, Lily (Paul) Ortiz, Adrian (Jasmine) Perez, Jeremy (Melissa) Tyra, Cori Tarter, Shannon (Doug) Willingham, Sara (Rashard) Pringle, Joshua (Jessica) Tyra, Tyler Wood, Brandi (Logan) Caddell, Wes (Mika) Wood, Caleb (Chandler) Wood, Clay (Kassandra) Eades, Rebecca (Robert) Garza, Amy (David) Castillo, and Casey (Madison) Hammond; step grandchildren, Austin (Ben) Skutnik, Jay (Jessica) Duncan, Connor Absher, Zach Absher, and Cassidy Absher; forty six great grandchildren; and brother Bill Graves.

     Gordon was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers and one grandchild.

     Memorial services for Gordon Thomas Graves will be held at 1 PM, Sunday, September 26, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church of Harrisburg. Rev. Laurie Fields will officiate. The family is requesting that all planning to attend would wear a mask. Memorials services in Austin, Texas will be announced at a later date where burial will follow in Crowell Texas. Memorial contributions may be made to Mercy Ships, PO Box 1930, Lindale, TX 75771 or online at


Memorial Service
September 26, 2021

1:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church of Harrisburg
34 W Poplar Street
Harrisburg, IL 62946

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