De Villiers Graaff was born in December 1913, just two months before the foundation of WPPS, and was at the school from 1924 to 1927. He was an outstanding scholar and sportsman, and was head boy in his final year.
While at UCT studying law, he played in two matches for the WP Currie Cup cricket side. He continued his legal studies at Oxford and at Leiden University. Returning to Cape Town to pursue a legal career, he was admitted as an advocate in 1937. His career was interrupted, however, by the outbreak of the Second World War, in which he served with the South African forces in North Africa. He was captured by the Germans at Tobruk, and spent the rest of the war, apart from a few days of freedom following an escape, in Italian and German prison camps. He was awarded an OBE after the war for his relief work among prisoners.
On his return home, he continued his legal career, at the same time becoming more involved in the family’s dairy farming interests.
Always interested in politics, he stood for the governing United Party in the landmark general election of 1948, in which the opposition National Party swept to power with a large majority. ‘Div’ enjoyed the personal triumph of being the only new UP candidate to win a seat from a sitting Nationalist member. Eight years later, he was appointed leader of the opposition in parliament, a position that he held for over twenty years. The more liberal Progressive Party replaced the UP as the official opposition in 1977, and ‘Div’ retired from politics. He was awarded South Africa’s Decoration for Meritorious Service. De Villiers, innately conservative politically, was known as a gentleman and a peacemaker, and for his high standards in all spheres of public life. He died on 4 October 1999.