James Francis Graves Gladney was born December 11, 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri. He was the son of Katherine Lewis Graves and Franklin Young Gladney, a successful lawyer and author of several articles and a book on patent law. They had four children: Graves, his younger brother John, and two younger sisters, Lucianna and Katherine. The family lived at 5057 Westminster Place, in a prestigious part of town.
In 1922 the Gladney family suffered the tragic loss of eleven-year old John from tuberculosis.
After graduating high school Gladney attended Amherst College, from which he graduated in 1928. He then traveled to Europe and studied at the Academie Julian for one year. In 1929 he transferred to the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, where he studied under Augustus John. He lived in a boarding house at 5 Traviton Street, London, where he met Janina Czarkowska, a student from Poland. They married in Warsaw in August of 1930. Their daughter, Vanda, was born in 1931.
In 1932 Gladney returned to St. Louis with his wife and daughter and lived with his parents. Their second daughter Natalie was born in 1934.
In 1934 Gladney moved to New Rochelle, New York, to start his freelance illustration career. New Rochelle was the home of many famous illustrators, such as Leyendecker and Rockwell, as well as pulp artists, such as Bob Harris, Emery Clarke, John Scott, and Rudy Belarski.
In 1936 Gladney's son Frank was born and his first published illustration appeared in Fortune Magazine. That same year his father formed the 7 Up Company in St. Louis to market a locally popular lemon-lime soft drink.
Graves Gladney sold his first pulp cover painting to Fiction House for the February 1937 issue of Lariat Story Magazine. He was soon selling freelance pulp covers to Adventure, Dime Mystery, Horror Stories, and Strange Stories, but the majority of his pulp covers were sold to Street & Smith magazines, such as Astounding, The Avenger, Clues, Crime Busters, Mystery, Sport Story, Unknown, and most notably The Shadow, for which he painted seventy covers between October 1938 to September 1941.
During WW2 Gladney was drafted into service in April 1942, at which time he was reported to be six-foot-one, and weigh 189 pounds. He was thirty-four years old, fluent in three languages, and an award-winning marksman, so he was sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, as a gunnery instructor. He also served in counter espionage.
He met Hazel Ruth Jenkins of Waco, Texas, and told his wife he wanted to divorce. She refused, and without waiting for legal settlement, Graves Gladney defiantly married Ruth Jenkins in January 1943.
In 1943 he was transferred to the 82nd Airborne and shipped out to England. He landed in Normandy on D-Day in a combat landing glider. On September 18, 1944, he made his second combat glider landing during the ill-fated invasion of Holland with Field Marshall Montgomery's Operation Market Garden. By 1945 First Lieutenant Gladney led his combat division into Berlin.
Gladney was discharged in the Fall of 1946 and returned to his complicated civilian life. He divided his time between Texas and New York as he and Ruth struggled to resolve their conflicted marital status. In August of 1948 their son John was born. Within a year his second marriage ended in divorce.
In 1949 Gladney returned to his hometown and accepted a teaching job at Washington University School of Fine Arts.
In 1959 he won his divorce from Janina.
In 1960 Gladney retired from teaching and married the school's receptionist secretary Nancy Joan Meeks. They had two children, Hope and Andrew.
In 1961 his father died at age 84, and Gladney inherited a sizeable family fortune, thanks to the fact that 7-UP had become the third most popular soft drink in the world.
Graves Gladney spent his retirement years painting, hunting, and golfing. He died of a heart attack at age 68 during surgery at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis on Wednesday March 24, 1976.
© David Saunders 2009