Daisy G. Anderson
Author | Class of 1998
Educator, author, and lecturer Daisy G. Anderson was best known for having been one of the last surviving widows of the American Civil War (1861–1865). She had been married to a former slave and U.S. Colored Regiment soldier and Union veteran.
Daisy Graham was born circa 1900 in Civil District 8, Hardin County, Tennessee, to John Wesley Graham and Alice Graham; she was the oldest of their eight children. Her father was a poor farmer, but he owned their home. Education was stressed to the children, in that both parents could read and write.
Graham, whose education ended with her eighth-grade graduation, sought to escape the hard labor and poor conditions of farming that she and her siblings engaged in as children. Around 1918, she moved to Arkansas, settled in Forrest City, and became a rural schoolteacher. Graham discovered that poverty and the racial injustice of Jim Crow laws were even more prominent in Arkansas than they had been in Tennessee. However, her meager salary still allowed her to send $10 per month home to help her family in Tennessee.
In 1922 while in her early twenties, Daisy met and married seventy-nine-year-old Robert Ball Anderson, who was in the area on an extended visit with his older brother, William Anderson. She was candid about the fact that Anderson loved her and that she did not share the sentiment when they were first married.
Robert Anderson had been born in 1843 into slavery in Green County, Kentucky. In 1865, he enlisted in Company G of the 125th U.S. Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment and served under the name Robert Ball, his master’s surname. After his military service, he settled in Butler County, Nebraska. By the time he had made his way to Arkansas, Anderson had become the richest black man in Nebraska, and he owned more than 2,000 acres of farmland there.
In November 1930, Robert Anderson was killed in an automobile accident on a return trip to Nebraska after a visit to Forrest City.
Daisy Anderson wrote a personal account of her husband’s life entitled From Slavery to Affluence: Memoirs of Robert Anderson, Ex-Slave; it was privately published in 1927 and reissued in 1988. She also took up one of Robert Anderson’s favorite activities, which was to attend Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) reunions and other Civil War– related events. In 1997, Daisy Anderson (Union widow) and Alberta Martin (Confederate widow) extended their hands toward each other in friendship at the wall of “Pickett’s Charge” in Gettysburg National Military Park 134 years after that bloody combat.
Daisy Graham Anderson died on September 19, 1998, in Denver, Colorado.