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Harold McGraw Jr.: Darien Library's knight

Updated 5:01 pm, Friday, April 11, 2014
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To the rest of the world in the late 1960s, Harold McGraw Jr. was a driving force in the development of a small family publishing business into the multibillion-dollar powerhouse that is now McGraw-Hill Companies.

In his hometown of Darien, though, he was known as the man behind the development of the library's first permanent home -- but not without the help of anonymous benefactors.

Samuel Dorrence, an attorney who would serve as the library board president, said McGraw "almost single-handedly got the library built," according to "So Many Friends," a book about the library's history. Dorrence, according to the book, was a lawyer "not given to hyperbole."

"Though Mr. McGraw himself might make a more modest assessment, the fact is that he succeeded where everyone else had failed for the previous 60 years," according to the book. "Moreover, his leadership and financial support continued through two subsequent additions (1974 and 1988) and he contributed generously in the hope of spurring other gifts."

When McGraw stepped into the role of library president, the board of directors was looking for ways to raise funds for a new facility.

McGraw was instrumental throughout the fundraising process by reaching out to the town -- and to two "Anonymous Angels," according to the book.

The first donation from the Anonymous Angels, a married couple, came in 1951. A New York-based attorney phoned Sidney Marland, then superintendent of schools and a member of the library board, with news that a client wanted to give the library $3,000. The purpose of the money was defined -- use it to establish a children's library.

Through 1971, the Anonymous Angels would donate nearly $20,000 for the establishment of the new library. They dictated the use for the money, but there were also times that McGraw reached out to them for more help.

McGraw retired as president in 1971, but his fundraising skills were sought again when the board realized more space was needed at 35 Leroy Ave.

McGraw, who was named an honorary trustee, died on March 24, 2010, at the age of 92.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583;

@Meg_DarienNews