- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

Few people have the opportunity to influence world events. Katharine Graham did, and left an enduring mark on many of them. She died Tuesday at the age of 84. Mrs. Graham, growing frail in recent months, was nevertheless all business till the end. She was attending a conference of media executives in Idaho when she fell, suffering a head injury, and did not recover.
Emerging from the personal tragedy of her husband's death and a life of unappreciated talent, she led The Washington Post first as president and then as publisher. The Post was the fourth newspaper in a four-newspaper town when her father bought it at a bankruptcy sale in 1933. Under her leadership it became one of the most influential newspapers in America. Mrs. Graham was a remarkable publisher, with the courage for making decisions, beginning with the hiring of Ben Bradlee from Newsweek in 1965. Mr. Bradlee, a tough and aggressive editor, did more to shape the paper, for better and worse, in an era when many newspapers that once thundered often whimper. Mrs. Graham, though hardly the first successful woman in the industry, stood out as one of the leading women in newspaper publishing, following in a path blazed by the flamboyant Cissy Patterson, the publisher of the old Washington Times-Herald, once the most powerful newspaper in town, which The Post acquired in 1954.
Her gentle personal charm softened the ambivalence, and worse, that many of its readers feel toward The Post. "I like Katherine Graham personally," Conrad Black, the proprietor of London's Daily Telegraph and dozens of newspapers in North America, once said. "But the amount of sloppy, ill-considered and certainly unmerited veneration for that newspaper, that sacred cow of hers, is frankly incredible. The way people adulate Kay Graham, you would think she was St. Francis of Assissi, or Margaret Thatcher."
Mrs. Graham was the Washington establishment. Her Georgetown home became the salon of the capital's A list, second only, perhaps, to an invitation to dinner at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. President Bush paid court to her as soon as he got to town, despite the way her newspaper had portrayed his family over the years. On occasion she worked at the side of her employees. When The Post broke the pressmen's union during a long and bitter strike, she took classified ad orders, assembled papers in the pressroom and picked up trash. But no one ever forgot who Mrs. Graham was. She once said that the idea that she was "the most powerful woman in America" was "nonsense." A lot of people in Washington, who found themselves in The Post's gunsights, would beg to differ.

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