In 1899, Charles Graves was elected professor of law to succeed the late Walter Dabney. Graves was born in Albemarle County, Virginia and attended Washington College, which would later become Washington and Lee University. In 1869, he received a Master of Arts from that college and joined its faculty, where he taught modern languages until 1873. While a professor there, he also studied law, earning a Bachelor of Law in 1873 and becoming a professor of law that year. From 1873 to 1899, he served as professor of law at Washington and Lee. In 1899, he began his teaching career at UVA. He continued to teach until 1927, at which time he became professor emeritus.
Graves was a beloved teacher among his students, known for his gentle manner and quiet sense of humor, as well as his clarity of explanation. William Minor Lile later recalled of Graves: “He was a teacher by instinct as well as by choice. In this narrow field he played his role with a singular devotion and success. Teaching was to him not his profession only but his passion—one may almost say his religion.” He taught such subjects as contracts, torts, bailments, carriers, and evidence. As a legal scholar, he wrote two well-regarded books—A Summary of Personal Property and The Law of Real Property. He co-founded the Virginia Law Register and acted as its associate editor for many years. Graves received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Davidson College in 1895 and from Washington and Lee University in 1911. He died in 1928.