Graham Fee graduated from Knoxville High School in 1957. He was a standout athlete in three sports for the Panthers, football, basketball and golf.
Fee who was inducted into the Knoxville High School Athletic Hall of Fame back in January commented, “I was better at football, but I loved basketball.”
Fee enters the Hall of Fame for his play on the football field. The 1954 Panther football squad was 9-0 to become the first unbeaten and untied squad in school history. It was his sophomore season on the team and he was the quarterback.
The coach of that unbeaten Panther squad was Ray Klootwyk. “Coach was a dynamic and strong willed man. To play on an undefeated team was great. It taught you self-confidence and built up your trust of your teammates,” Fee said.
In looking back he added, “That team had a big impact on my whole life. Playing a team sport was a big responsibility and making sure you did your job.”
Fee earned all-conference honors three times and he was 4th team all-state his senior year.
Fee described life in Knoxville growing up in the 50s.
“Knoxville was a close knit community. The downtown businesses thrived. It was an active vibrant community. The drug stores served up cherry cokes and chocolate shakes. We had three drug stores at the time, Speed’s Osborn and Crews.
He continued, “The skating rink was big and we had two movie theaters in town.The big employer was the Veterans Hospital which employed over 1,000 people and the Knoxville School District.”
The 50s also included three women’s clothing stores, three men’s stories, three shoe stores, two hardware stores and three grocery stores.
“Knoxville was a self-supporting community,” Fee said.
A lot of the young kids growing up worked at the Knoxville race track. They helped clean the bleachers and repair fences.
Not only was Graham Fee a star quarterback for the Panthers, but he could play some mean basketball as well.
His favorite teacher was Bud Carper, who also happened to be the basketball coach. Graham Fee was all-conference in basketball for the Panthers as he led the team in scoring.
A few of Graham’s buddies growing up in high school included Rich Bailey, Gordon Hayes, John Carle, Dwight Mater, Ronnie Kim and Ed McDonald to name a few.
He later went on to play basketball and football at Central College in Pella. The all-conference honors continued for him as a Dutchman and he was captain of the basketball team and Team MVP.
In football he set records in college for most yards in a game, most yards in a career and most completed passes in a game.
Graham Fee served as “The Voice of the Panthers,”a position he held at the football stadium for 42 years.
“I spotted for Bill Goff when he announced at the stadium in the 60s. It was the best seat in the house and I loved it. I wasn’t paid for announcing.”
He was recognized twice by the Iowa High School Athletic Association for announcing.
In 2007 he won the “Mo Kelley Excellence in Public Address Announcing,” award. In 2013 he was presented the “Friend of the School Award,” also presented by the IHSAA.
Fee recalls one of the most difficult games he had to announce. Harlan visited Knoxville and left town with a 56-0 win.
“That was not easy,” he said.
He also later served the community for three terms as the mayor.
“I’m passionate and loyal to Knoxville, not just for athletics, but for the community in general. I didn’t run for mayor because I wanted the title. I wanted Knoxville to be strong,” he commented.
A few of the items that got done while he was mayor was building the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum.
Getting a spec building built to get a new business in town (it later became Weiler’s) and formulating the Knoxville Heritage Foundation.
Fee stated, “The lessons I learned from failure over the years were just as important as the successes.”
Odds and Ends
He was co-owner of McKay/Fee Insurance until he retired.
He is married to Roxanne Caldwell Fee. Children include Curt and Amy, step-children Shelley and Rick Caldwell and eight grandchildren.