- Graham, Katharine Meyer
▪ 2002American newspaper executive (b. June 16, 1917, New York, N.Y.—d. July 17, 2001, Boise, Idaho), took over the leadership position at the Washington Post following the death of her publisher husband and guided it to a position of new success, influence, and respect. Among her most important actions were the decisions to publish the Pentagon Papers—secret government documents concerning decisions about the conduct of the Vietnam War—and to allow two of the paper's reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, to investigate what became known as the Watergate scandal and led to the resignation of Pres. Richard M. Nixon. She was the first woman to serve as the head of a Fortune 500 company and was considered the most powerful woman in the U.S. Graham attended Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., from 1934 to 1936 and then transferred to the University of Chicago, from which she graduated in 1938. After working as a reporter for the San Francisco News, she went (1939) to the Washington Post, where her father was editor and publisher. In 1940 she married Philip L. Graham and moved with him to Florida. In 1946 they returned to Washington when, at his father-in-law's behest, he became associate publisher and then publisher of the Post. Her husband became increasingly troubled by mental illness, however, and in 1963 committed suicide; Graham became sole owner of the paper and took over its presidency. Though she initially was uneasy about running the company, which by then included Newsweek magazine, other publications, and a number of television stations, she persevered and, with the addition of Benjamin Bradlee, whom she hired as executive editor in 1965, the paper thrived. Graham became publisher in 1969. In 1971 the Post gained new prominence when it published the Pentagon Papers after the New York Times, which had begun publishing them, was stopped by a federal restraining order. When the Supreme Court sided with the newspapers, freedom of the press prevailed. The next year, following a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., the Post relentlessly investigated the action and its connection to the Nixon reelection campaign. The paper was awarded the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for public service. Graham became CEO and chairman of the board in 1973 and served in those capacities until 1991 and 1993, respectively. In 1979 she turned over the post of publisher to her son, Donald E. Graham, and he also succeeded her when she left her other positions. Graham won her own Pulitzer in 1998—for her autobiography, Personal History (1997).
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