- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Katharine Graham, who presided over The Washington Post as it became one of the most prosperous and powerful newspapers in the nation and who was one of the most influential women in America, died yesterday. She was 84.
Mrs. Graham died at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, as the result of head injuries.
The former Post publisher was injured when she fell on a walkway Saturday while attending a conference of business executives in Sun Valley, Idaho. Mrs. Graham, who underwent surgery on Sunday, was "unconscious immediately following the fall" and never regained consciousness, a hospital spokesman in Boise said.
"She committed the paper to whatever its excellence is," said former Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, who said he gathered the newspaper's staff yesterday afternoon to reminisce about Mrs. Graham. "She was the heart and soul of the place," he said.
President Bush said in a statement yesterday that "the nation's capital and our entire nation today mourn the loss of the beloved first lady of Washington and American journalism."
He called Mrs. Graham "a true leader and a true lady."
Taking over The Post after her husband's 1963 suicide, Mrs. Graham turned it into a Fortune 500 firm by the time she handed over the company to her son, Donald E. Graham, in 1991.
In 1974, she was the first woman elected to the Associated Press board of directors, and served as chairman of the American Newspaper Publishers Association from 1980 to 1982. At the time of her death, she was chairman of the executive committee of the Washington Post Co.
Katharine Meyer was born June 16, 1917, in New York City, the fourth of five children of Eugene and Agnes Meyer. Her father was a banker and her mother a philanthropist. Young Katharine attended Madeira School, a private girls' academy in McLean.
In 1933, Eugene Meyer purchased The Washington Post for $875,000 at a bankruptcy auction and began spending millions of dollars to expand and improve the paper. His daughter attended Vassar College for two years before transferring to the University of Chicago, where she graduated in 1938. She worked at her father's paper during summer vacations.
After graduating from college, Katharine Meyer took a job as a reporter for the San Francisco News, part of the Scripps Howard chain. But after a year in California, she later told an interviewer, "my father came out to get me and bring me back to Washington," where she joined the editorial staff of The Post.
In 1940, she married Phillip L. Graham, a recent Harvard Law School graduate who had been a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. After his service in World War II, Mr. Graham became publisher of The Post. In 1948, Eugene Meyer sold all the voting stock in The Washington Post Co. to his son-in-law and daughter for $1.
The Grahams rapidly enlarged their business, purchasing a competitor, the Washington Times-Herald, in 1954 for a reported $8.5 million, and buying Newsweek magazine for $8 million in 1961. The family also expanded its television and radio operations.
The couple produced four children — Elizabeth "Lally" Weymouth, Donald Graham, William Graham and Stephen Graham.
But, Mrs. Graham wrote in her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1997 autobiography, her husband suffered from manic-depressive illness and was cruel to her, calling her "Porky" and engaging in numerous affairs. Phillip Graham left his wife for a young Newsweek reporter, saying that he wanted a divorce and planned to take The Post away from Mrs. Graham.
It was "the very bottom moment," she later wrote. Then, in 1963, Mr. Graham killed himself at their country home in Virginia while his wife napped in an upstairs bedroom. He was 48.
Mrs. Graham then assumed presidency of The Washington Post Co., a position she held until 1991, when she relinquished the job to her son.
By 1966, The Post ranked third among U.S. newspapers in advertising inches sold, the most common way newspapers measure success. By 1970, Mrs. Graham had raised the paper's editorial budget to $6 million a year, doubling the editorial staff, and the company reported profits of more than $100 million a year.
Even while her newspaper's influence grew to rival, but not equal, the New York Times, Mrs. Graham suggested The Post was hampered by the limitations of the Washington market.
"We're never going to be best the way the New York Times is best because we have a different situation here," she told a Wall Street Journal writer in 1970. "They can write to a highly educated, specialized audience, but we have a mass paper."
In 1971, The Post joined the New York Times in a successful court battle for the right to publish the so-called "Pentagon Papers," a top-secret government report detailing the political decisions that led to the escalation of the war in Vietnam.
In 1972 and '73, The Post scored one of the greatest scoops in American newspaper history when its reporters exposed the involvement of members of the Nixon administration in the July 1972 burglary of Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Hotel.
The Nixon administration responded by threatening the company's TV licenses. The stock price fell by more than half.
"It was a lonely moment," Mrs. Graham recalled in a 1997 newspaper interview with London's Daily Telegraph.
The Post won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Watergate scandal, which led to President Nixon's resignation in 1974.
"I was amazed at the regular allegations that somehow we had created the agony of Watergate by recklessly pursuing certain stories and thereby causing the turmoil that the president was in," Mrs. Graham wrote in her autobiography, describing as "peripheral" her role in the newspaper's coverage of the scandal.
Following the newspaper's prize-winning Watergate coverage, The Post bitterly fought a 1975 strike by its pressmen. Mrs. Graham, who called herself "a believer in the labor movement," nevertheless replaced the union pressmen and explained that "we were not out to bust unions." She said the union at The Post "had fallen in the hands of some very bad people."
In addition to her four children, Mrs. Graham is survived by a sister, Ruth M. Epstein of Bronxville, N.Y., 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Her funeral will be at 11 a.m. Monday at the Washington National Cathedral.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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