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Memorial: Frank Phillips Grisham, 1928–2020

photo of Frank Grisham
Frank Grisham

Frank Phillips Grisham, former director of the Vanderbilt University Library, died on October 9, 2020, at age 92.

Grisham went to Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1949 as a graduate student, earning the bachelor of divinity (now the master of divinity) in 1952. After serving churches in his home state of Alabama, he earned a master of arts in library science from Peabody College in Nashville in 1958, becoming director that year of Vanderbilt’s Divinity Library. The Divinity Library was part of the Joint University Library Corporation (JUL), which served students of Scarritt College for Christian Workers and Peabody College as well as Vanderbilt students. From 1965 to 1967, Grisham was assistant director of JUL, becoming director in 1968.

In 1968 Grisham established the Vanderbilt Television News Archive, the world’s most extensive and complete archive of television news, as part of the library system. The 1979 merger of Peabody College and Vanderbilt University converted the Joint University Library Corporation into the Vanderbilt University Library with Grisham leading that transition. Grisham left Vanderbilt in 1982 to become executive director of SOLINET, the Southeastern Library Network, in Atlanta, from which he retired in 1994.

“Frank was a great man and an outstanding librarian,” said Valerie Hotchkiss, university librarian at Vanderbilt. “After his retirement he stayed connected with regular notes cheering us on for our accomplishments in the libraries. I will miss my lunches with Frank. He made us all feel as if we were the best librarians in the world—and we tried to live up to his opinions of us.”

Grisham received numerous regional and national library awards, including the Melvil Dewey Medal from the American Library Association in 1994 and the Mary Utopia Rothrock Award from the Southeastern Library Association in 1990. He served as president of the Tennessee Library Association in 1976–1977.

Grisham was active in the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), serving on the ARL Board of Directors in 1977–1980. He also served on the ARL Office of Management Studies Advisory Committee in 1980–1981, Office of University Library Management Studies Advisory Committee in 1978, and Committee on Negro Academic Libraries in 1972–1973.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Brentwood United Methodist Church Foundation, or the charity of your choice.

To learn more about Grisham’s life and career, see his obituary published by The Tennessean, the Vanderbilt news story “Grisham, Former Library Director and Co-founder of the Vanderbilt Television News Archive, Has Died,” and the video of his memorial service by the Brentwood United Methodist Church.