In 1937, Abraham immigrated alone to the United States from Germany during the rise of the Nazi regime. His parents, Liesel Dreyfuss Abraham and Fred Abraham, and brother Otto followed in 1939. The family settled in Pittsburgh, PA. He served in World War II as an enlisted man and officer in U.S. Army Intelligence on duty in Western and Central Europe. He received two Battle Stars and the Commendation Medal. When the war ended in the European Theater, Abraham, who is fluent in German, French, and English, and adequate in Danish, served in a military unit that gathered evidence for use in the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.
In 1948 Abraham graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio with a bachelor's degree with highest honors in political science, first in his class, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He earned his M.A. in public law and government from Columbia University in 1949, and he received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1952, where he began his teaching career. Abraham served as a Kenyon College Trustee for six years (1987-1993.)
After serving in the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Political Science for 23 years (1949-–1972), Abraham became a chaired professor in the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia in 1972. A pioneer in comparative judicial studies, he served as a Fulbright Scholar in Denmark at the Universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, where he was instrumental in establishing the country's first Department of Political Science. He lectured throughout the world under U.S.I.A. auspices. He retired from full-time teaching in 1997 after nearly a half-century in the classroom, but he continues to teach in lifelong learning programs in Charlottesville, Virginia.
During the span of his career, Abraham has taught many notable students, including U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (D.-Penn.); Judge Edward Roy Becker, U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals; Judge Susan J. Dlott, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court in Ohio; Judge John Roll, U.S. District Court in Arizona; Judge Charles R. Weiner, U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania; Judge Mark S. Davis, U.S. District Court in Virginia; Judge Stefan R. Underhill, U.S. District Court in Connecticut; Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr., Virginia Supreme Court; Justice Elizabeth B. Lacy, Virginia Supreme Court; author and professor Larry J. Sabato; author and professor Barbara A. Perry; author and professor David A. Yalof; attorney and PA State Rep. Mark B. Cohen; attorney J. Reuben Clark; author and Law professor Vincent Martin Bonventre; author and professor David Cingranelli; author and professor Bruce Allen Murphy; author and professor Robert Sitkoff; and author John Aloysius Farrell, the biographer of Clarence Darrow. Senator Specter and Judge Becker were members of the University of Pennsylvania debate team that Abraham coached.
Abraham's 13 books include The Judicial Process: An Introductory Analysis of the Courts of the United States, England, and France, 7th ed.; Freedom and the Court: Civil Rights and Liberties in the United States, 8th ed., with Barbara A. Perry; Justices, Presidents, Senators: A History of U.S. Supreme Court Appointments from Washington to Bush II, 5th ed., and The Judiciary: The Supreme Court in the Governmental Process, 10th ed.