NEW YORK — Katharine Graham, the spirited matriarch who built a media empire and a newpaper that at times published stories impugning those who were part of her social circle, died Tuesday. She was 84.
Ms. Graham died as the result of head injuries sustained in a fall Saturday in Sun Valley, Idaho, where she was attending a conference of business leaders, according to a press release.
Ms. Graham was chairwoman of the executive committee of The Washington Post Co. She was formerly chairwoman and chief executive officer of The Washington Post Co. and publisher of the Washington Post newspaper.
According to a report posted on the Washington Post’s Web site, Ms. Graham had been unconscious since her fall when she hit a concrete sidewalk. After her fall she was taken to a hospital in the Sun Valley area and then flown by helicopter to St. Adolphus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, where she underwent surgery and was placed in the intensive care unit.
Ms. Graham was born on June 16, 1917, in New York City. She was a daughter of Agnes Ernst Meyer and Eugene Meyer, who purchased the Washington Post at a bankruptcy sale in 1933.
After attending Vassar for two years, she graduated from the University of Chicago in 1938. She worked as a reporter for the San Francisco News and later joined the staff of the Washington Post, working in the editorial and circulation departments.
Ms. Graham’s husband, Philip L. Graham, was publisher of the Washington Post from 1946 until 1961 and president of The Washington Post Co. from 1947 until his death in 1963. At that time, Mrs. Graham became president of the company and served in that position until 1973.
She chaired the board from 1973 to 1993 and was chief executive officer from 1973 to 1991. She was publisher of the Washington Post from 1969 to 1979.
During her tenure, she supported the newspaper when it decided to publish the Pentagon Papers, a secret study of the Vietnam War, and when it pursued coverage of the Watergate scandal that eventually brought about the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. In 1974, she was the first woman elected to the board of directors of the Associated Press.
She turned over the company to her son, Donald, in 1993.
Katharine Graham was the author of “Personal History,” a memoir for which she received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.
She is survived by her son Donald Graham, chairman and chief executive officer of The Washington Post Company; her daughter Elizabeth “Lally” Weymouth, a Washington Post and Newsweek journalist, of New York; her son William Graham, an investor, of Los Angeles; her son Stephen Graham, a producer, philanthropist and Ph.D. student of English literature, of New York; 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and her sister Ruth M. Epstein of Bronxville, NY.
A funeral service will be held on Monday, July 23, at 11:00 a.m., at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.