Katharine Graham, chairman of the executive committee of The Washington Post Company and the author of Personal History, a memoir for which she received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, died July 17 at age 84.
Graham, who has been dubbed “one of the most powerful women in American media,” and “one of the twentieth century’s most powerful and interesting women,” served as chairman of the board of The Washington Post Company for 20 years prior to becoming chairman of the executive committee in September 1993. She held other titles like chief executive officer and president after serving as the publisher of The Washington Post newspaper from 1969 to 1979.
Graham will be sorely missed in Washington and all over the country.
“It seems unthinkable that will not be there anymore,” said writer Sally Quinn in a recent CNN interview.
Ben Bradlee, Vice President of The Washington Post Company, said, “She had a lot of fun and made others have a lot of fun at the same time.”
Quinn, who referred to Graham as “Kay,” the name she was known to many by, also said, “She worked harder than anyone I ever knew.”
Graham was born on June 16, 1917, in New York City to Agnes Ernst Meyer and Eugene Meyer, who purchased The Washington Post at a bankruptcy sale in 1933.
She graduated from the University of Chicago in 1938 and worked as a reporter for the San Francisco News before joining the staff of The Washington Post. She married Philip Graham in 1940, and in 1945 left the Post to raise her family of four children.
After her husband committed suicide in 1963, Katharine Graham at the age of 46 assumed control of the Washington Post Company.
She “transformed the lackadaisical daily into one of the powerhouses of journalism. She stood up to government, publishing the Pentagon Papers, which revealed U.S. bungling in Southeast Asia. She gave two reporters the OK to check out a minor break-in at the Watergate — an investigation that toppled a president — and backed them despite intense White House pressure,” according to lifetimetv.com.
Talking about her decision to publish the Pentagon Papers and similar undaunted choices, Bradlee said, “Her instinct of what is right and what is wrong was finely tuned.”
Quinn added that Graham had the “guts of a burglar,” and “She enjoyed the high wire act – she never flinched.”
Lifetimetv.com also says: “At the age of 80, Graham won a Pulitzer Prize for her absorbing memoir, “Personal History,” in which she bared her anguish about her husband’s mental illness, her conflicts about combining motherhood and work and her insecurities about her powerful role.”