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2016 GOP Hopeful Lindsey Graham Recalls Past in Self-Published ‘My Story’

Presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham is getting his story out, all by himself.

A 126 page e-book, "My Story" by Graham, will be made available free by download beginning Wednesday on his campaign website. NBC News obtained an early copy.

Graham explains his reason for releasing this self-published biography which is paid for by his campaign. Graham writes, "When you start imagining a big promotion, and you let your imagination get the better of you, you are by custom expected to give a general account of your life."

But he makes clear this is not an exhaustive accounting but more “impressionistic” about the important experiences and influences that have shaped him.

Early chapters are set around the bar and pool hall his parents owned in South Carolina where he learned much about life at the "Sanitary Cafe."

Graham’s story is set against the issues of race, economic struggles and emotional hardship. He acknowledged the segregation of the times through his family business,

"My folks sold beer to anyone of legal age, but, I’m sorry to say, for many of the years my parents operated the bar, black people were expected to drink the beer they purchased from us off the premises," he wrote.

"It’s just the way it is," my Dad explained to me. That eventually changed, but not until the early seventies, much later than it should have," Graham says in the book.

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Graham’s parents are described as "kind hearted" and hardworking. Running their own bar, there were no paid vacations just Sundays off.

He writes about the love that filled his earliest memories. His parents, who did not graduate high school, made him like the "center of their lives." Graham notes with a touch of humor, "Their attentiveness gave me confidence, which I have always had in abundance."

There are Huck Finn-like tales of mischief and boyhood antics. But Graham also reveals in wrenching personal detail much about the sorrow and responsibilities that came when both parents became ill and died within 15 months. Graham was left to care for his younger sister, Darline.

He was a college student when his mother battled cancer and he recalls how important getting a class ring was to her, "She knew by then she wouldn’t see me graduate. The ring was a promise that I would, that I would be okay, that I would make something of myself. The joy on her face the day I showed it to her is something I’ll never forget."

Both parents were ill. When his mother died, Graham recalls that he scheduled her funeral quickly so it would not fall on his little sister’s 12th birthday. His father’s health then declined quickly.

As a college student caring for his orphaned sister, a small social security checked helped keep them going.

He recounts making it through Air Force ROTC and then law school. "I still went home every weekend to work in the liquor store and look after Darline." He managed to keep his Air Force commitment and how the paycheck helped him support Darline, who became his legal dependent.

Graham, who turns 60 in July, provides a few short memories about his own love life. He refers to "two serious relationships" while he was serving overseas in Europe.

There was Carol. He said, "She was a great lawyer and an even better person and we had a blast together." But it did not work out.

Graham says a roommate introduced him to a Lufthansa flight attendant named Sylvia. He writes, "The relationship became serious quickly. At one point, I thought I would propose, or at least I entertained the idea. It wasn’t to be, though.”

He seems to blame their breakup on distance and obligations, "She was responsible for an aging mother in Vienna, and I was a South Carolina boy, who needed to go home." Sylvia went on to marry a doctor, "a good move on her part," Graham noted.

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During his Air Force assignment in Europe, Graham tried many criminal cases. "I was good at getting defendants to plead guilty, and when they refused, I was good at winning convictions," he said.

His military career which ends this summer due to an age-required retirement means a great deal to Graham/ "The Air Force has been one of the best things that ever happened to me," he said in the book. "It identified and developed my talent, and helped me become useful to my country.”

By page 115 of 126, Graham makes the turn to a new career. "Since childhood, I had a notion I might someday get into politics. That said, I had never been particularly political," he said.

Recruited to run for the state legislature, he spent mostly his own money for the campaign and somehow rented a small elephant for kids to pet and passed out graham crackers with his logo.

Graham admits he didn’t know much about running his early campaign but he writes, "We didn’t get killed. We won. And I learned a political lesson I’ve never forgotten. You can’t put too high of a value on likability."

In that race, he won every precinct in his district except his own — which he cites as an enduring reminder of humility. He credits the support of good people around him and the changes that were outside his control. Graham transitioned into politics as South Carolina voters shifted from the Democratic Party toward the Republican Party. He moved on to enter the U.S. House.

Graham makes just a few references to President Clinton, and it was Graham’s role in the Clinton impeachment case that raised his profile nationally — a turn of events that positioned him up well when home state icon, the controversial Strom Thurmond, retired. Graham won the open Senate seat.

“I’ve had lucky timing in politics. It’s the secret to my success,” he said.

Graham does not lay out his case for his next campaign seeking the GOP nomination. He ends “My Story” with another tribute to his parents. After years of regret and feeling “cheated” that his parents had not seen how he had turned out, Graham says when he was elected to the U.S. House, he finally felt a “calmness” that his parents did know all he had become and how he has lived.

“My Story” is co-authored by Mark Salter who has collaborated with Sen John McCain on several books.