BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Katharine Graham, author of "Personal History," did your children
learn anything from this book about you?
Ms. KATHARINE GRAHAM, AUTHOR, "PERSONAL HISTORY": That's a hard
question. I'm sure they probably did, but I couldn't tell you exactly
LAMB: All the stuff in here about your early life and your husband
and all that, did they know that? Have you-all talked that out?
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes, I think they understand that he was ill. They--the
oldest one was 20, and the youngest one was 11, so they had to deal
with it then and always.
LAMB: The question I had after I read the book was, `Why do you want
us to know all this?'
Ms. GRAHAM: I really don't suppose that I meant to just tell
everything to everybody. But once I sat down to write my story, I
just tend to be frank and open, and I wanted to be very truthful. And
I just wrote it the way I saw it and the way the research came up
with. I told it as I--the best I could.
LAMB: When did you start it?
Ms. GRAHAM: About six and a half years ago, I started to do the
research for this book. I actually had the idea even longer ago than
LAMB: You--you address early in the book that you wrote it yourself.
Ms. GRAHAM: I did. But I also had very good assistance from a fine
researcher, Evelyn Small, and my editor at Knopf, Bob Gottlieb. So I
consider that I had assistance from them, but I wrote the words
LAMB: How did you go about it?
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, first, we--for about two years, we did research
because I had no diaries. So we looked up all the letters and,
luckily, I grew up in a day when you all wrote letters all the time,
and so we had a lot of those. And we had memos from The Post, from
Phil's day, from my day. And we had a lot of paper that I didn't know
we had, and that helped a lot. And then we did 250 or more or less
interviews with my contemporaries, starting with schoolmates and
working on up to politicians and judges and other people that we dealt
with. And that helped fill in the record.
LAMB: What year did your father buy The Post?
Ms. GRAHAM: In 1933. He had just gotten out of the government, been
out about three weeks, as--he'd been governor of the Federal Reserve
board, and he had started the Reconstruction Finance Corporation under
Hoover. And he stayed as Federal Reserve chairman for a little while
under Roosevelt. And then he resigned because he didn't like
Roosevelt's monetary policies, and went to Mount Kisco. The Post came
up three weeks later for auction on the steps of the building, and he
bought it anonymously.
LAMB: What'd he pay for it?
Ms. GRAHAM: Eight hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars.
LAMB: How many newspapers were there in Washington then?
Ms. GRAHAM: There were five, and--and The Post was fifth in the
field of five. And so it had about circulation of 50,000 in a pretty
broken-down building. And so he started in, and he thought--he was a
businessman, and he thought he knew to--how to turn around businesses,
but he really had never had any newspaper experience, and he
encountered the most horrendous difficulties in fighting his way up.
But he really did a terrific job starting with nothing.
LAMB: Where's Mount Kisco?
Ms. GRAHAM: Mount Kisco, where they lived in the summer, was about
an hour--it was about 50 miles from New York City in Westchester
County. And we went there every summer. And they had built this
large house there, thinking that my father was going to live there
when he was on Wall Street and was going to commute to Wall Street.
But it just got built when we moved to Washington--or they moved to
LAMB: When did your father meet your mother?
Ms. GRAHAM: In 1912, they met in a museum in New York City. My
father had picked up a friend, and they were driving downtown in an
old car that he had called a Stanley Steamer. And he picked up this
friend whom he didn't either know very well or like very much and said
that he would like to give him a ride, but he was going to stop off at
a Japanese print show. And they did that, and they saw my mother
walking around in the show. And my father said to his friend, `That's
the woman I'm going to marry.' And so the friend said, `Well, then you
have to speak to her.' My father said, `No, no, that would spoil
everything. One of us is going to meet her, and whoever meets her
first will call the other one.' And about two weeks later, the friend
called my father and said, `Guess what?' And he said, `You've met the
girl.' And he said, `Damn you, I have, and I've arranged that we're
all going to have dinner.' And from then--for two years--that was on
Lincoln's birthday, and they were married two years later on Lincoln's
LAMB: Now what impact has it had on your life that he was Jewish and
she was Lutheran?
Ms. GRAHAM: A quite weird one, actually. Neither one of them, I
have to say, were very religious, my mother maybe a little more than
my father. He had, at the age of 14, studied for a bar mitzvah, and
then he decided--he said, `I believe some of that, but not all of it,
and I'm not going to do that.' And he never--he was very, very
ethical, very driven, very moral, but he wasn't formally religious.
She--neither was she, but her family was and his family was. And so
she took us to church and--but very--not very formally.
LAMB: But as you grew older--I mean, from time to time you see in the
book where anti-Sen--Semitism came into your life. How often?
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, almost not at all, strangely, when I was young, a
couple of times. One was when I was in school and somebody was
casting "The Merchant of Venice" and said maybe I should play Shylocke
because I was Jewish. And I--I didn't have any idea that I was or
that there was such a thing; I knew nothing about it. And at--at some
other point, they'd said my father was a millionaire, and I didn't
know what either one of them meant. So I'd go on home, ask my mother
what--what it meant to be Jewish and what it meant to be a
millionaire. And I don't think I got any explanation for either one
at that point.
But then later in college, it came up because, of course, Hitler had
started and it was more of an issue. But I spent my whole youth
s--bizarrely unaware of the issues or of anti-Semitism or of anything.
I mean, I should have pra--known a lot more about it. I should have
known both their heritages and what it meant to be Jewish, what it
meant to be Lutheran, but it simply wasn't mentioned. Not--by the
way, I'm sure they weren't ashamed or worried about it; it just was
that nothing intimate was really talked about in my family.
LAMB: How many other kids in the family?
Ms. GRAHAM: There are five of us in all. Now I was the fourth.
LAMB: How many are still alive?
Ms. GRAHAM: I have two sisters, one older, my sister Elizabeth
Laurents, and one younger, my sister Ruth Epstein. She was four years
younger than me, and there were two years between all the rest of us.
LAMB: And you grew up where?
Ms. GRAHAM: In Wash--well, we live--we spent our first years in New
York, and that's kind of a strange part of the story because my family
had moved to Washington, but they were there for almost four years
before they moved us down to Washington. So we were living mostly
with governesses and nurses and music teachers and things like that in
the New York apartment. And then, in fact, they'd come up in between
and visited us, and occasionally my sisters would go down to
Washington, but I was a baby. And when--when I was four, we all moved
LAMB: Where'd you go to college?
Ms. GRAHAM: I went for two years to Vassar and for two years to the
University of Chicago. I changed.
LAMB: And a fellow named Mortimer Adler, I see, taught you.
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, it was a course taught by Mortimer Adler and
Robert Maynard Hutchins together, the president of the university.
And it was the history--the i--great ideas in the Western world. They
thought that--Hutchins had a theory that, I think, started at St.
John's College in Annapolis, that if you learned the great ideas of
the Western world, that that would be your education. And so this
course started with Plato and Aristotle, then worked all the way up to
St. Tho--through St. Thomas Aquinas and to Freud and Marx. And they
drilled you; there was a Socratic method, and you had to kind of stand
up for yourself and defend your ideas to them. And it was very
rigorous training, and I really liked it, but it was very hard.
LAMB: Who became your favorite philosopher out of that? Anybody?
Ms. GRAHAM: I think I liked the Greeks. I liked Aristotle and Plato
talking about happiness and the ends of life and what you thought
about. I was really interested in that.
LAMB: After college, what?
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, I had proudly gone off and gotten myself a job at
the University of Chicago. I mean, I'd use my--my law prof--my labor
relations professor, Paul Douglas, who later became a senator, knew
the publisher of the then Chicago Times, the afternoon tabloid. And I
went down there and asked him for a job, and he said he would take me,
but if I wasn't any good, then I shouldn't think he was going to keep
me. And I said, `That would be fine. I'd love a tryout.' Then I went
home and my father asked me to go out to San Francisco with him on a
train trip he was taking, because he was going to the Bohemian
Gro--Grove men's reserve. And I said, `Fine.' I'd never seen San
Francisco. And I stayed there while he was at the Bohemian Grove, and
he came back, and I said, `I love this town and if I will swallow my
pride, give up my job in Chicago, will you help me find a job here?'
And he did.
LAMB: You met Harry Bridges.
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, I covered a longshoremen's labor dispute; it was a
lockout on the whole waterfront of everybody who was working in the
warehouses. It was after--two years after the very bloody, well-known
longshoremen's strike. And I was asked by the labor reporter to do
the legwork on this. And I went up and down the waterfront and got to
know the negotiator for the union, Sam Kaegel, and the head of the
warehousemen's union, Gene Patton, and the--occasionally Harry
Bridges. And I have to say, although it isn't correct these days, I
socialized with them at night and we went up and down the waterfront
drinking what is known as boilermakers.
LAMB: And they were--boilermakers?
Ms. GRAHAM: I fear they were whiskey--whiskey and beer mixed, and
you could get three of them--you could get a third one free if you
paid 25 cents for the first two.
LAMB: About 80 pages in, you say, `My political outlook developed
further as a committed liberal, primarily passionate, anti-fascist and
sympathetic toward the labor movement.' Still there?
Ms. GRAHAM: N--honestly, not. I mean, I am in that you deal and
want to deal with organized labor, and we do. But I think that as it
w--then, they were just getting organized, and the--the industrial
unions were all new, the steel and miners were--were unorganized, and
they were just getting organized. And so their situa--their labor
conditions were quite bad. Right now some of the unions are fine and
needed just the way they are, and some, like many businesses, I feel,
have gotten into practices that are not particularly constructive and
that have to be rethought, like featherbedding when it's not needed.
LAMB: And after all these years, what--what's your political
philosophy today? How would you des--define yourself?
Ms. GRAHAM: I think I'm just about where I was. I f--I'm centrist,
probably more Democratic than not, but I'm independent. I've voted
for--for Republicans as well as Democrats. But I feel strongly about
issues of racial justice and poverty and cities, and I feel strongly
that there has to be something done within the context of our--of--of
the way this country is. And I'm obviously committed to all the
values such as freedom of speech and--and the things that I feel that
enlightened semiliberals are for.
LAMB: Think people would be surprised to find out you voted for
George Bush in 1988?
Ms. GRAHAM: I suppose so, because I think the most surprised person
would probably be President Bush.
LAMB: Why do you think he'd be surprised?
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, I think that most presidents get sensitive about
The Post and Newsweek as well. And they--he had his issues with us,
but I think any president does. But I th--I--I suspect he would not
think I'd voted for him.
LAMB: Give us a--just a thumbnail sketch of The Post Company today.
How many newspapers, television stations, how big is it, what's the
gross revenues on a year's basis?
Ms. GRAHAM: We're at about $1.6 billion in annual revenues, and the
company holds mainly The Washington Post, and we have a small
newspaper, the Everel--Everett Herald and half of the International
Herald Tribune. And then we have Newsweek and we have six television
stations and a million and a half cable connections. And we also have
Digital Ink, which is our electronic media and a Washington Post Web
LAMB: Are you still chairman of the executive committee?
Ms. GRAHAM: No--oh, yes, I am chairman of the executive committee.
I thought you were going to say chairman. No, I am chairman of the
LAMB: And how long were you chairman of The Washington Post Company?
Ms. GRAHAM: Thirty years.
LAMB: Go back to...
Ms. GRAHAM: That's a little bit average.
LAMB: You go back to San Francisco, then you come back to Washington.
When was your first job at The Post?
Ms. GRAHAM: In 19--well, actually, I'd worked there summers in
LAMB: But I mean after school.
Ms. GRAHAM: But after school, in 1939, when my father came out and
suggested that I come back from San Francisco and work on The Post.
And I was--it was time for me to leave there in many ways, and I was
happy to do that.
LAMB: What was your job?
Ms. GRAHAM: It was low person on the editorial page. I edited
letters to the editor, I made up the page, and I wrote a few
editorials of no great moment.
LAMB: When did you meet Phil Graham?
Ms. GRAHAM: That year that I came back. I was really surprised
because when I'd left Washington to go to college, it was still a very
Republican town, and it was kind of stuffy, you know. There were
parties of my parents' age and then our parties were kind of dances in
their third-generation real estate. And when I got back, the New Deal
had come and grown up, and it was prewar, and--and the town was just
full of attractive young men. And it was not the town I remembered,
and I was simply thrilled.
LAMB: And how did you meet him?
Ms. GRAHAM: I met him in a house where I got to know some of the
people--two of the people who worked on The Post were living there.
And there were 12 bachelors in this house, and he was one of the 12,
and I didn't me--meet him till he was going out with some other
women--girls. And I m--actually met him one night when we'd all gone
to a restaurant and were coming back. And I--they were living at S
Street; they hadn't moved to Arlington, which they later did. And I
leaned out the window with a lot of other people because the tail end
of the party was coming in, and I--unfortunately, the screen fell out
onto his head, and he was startled and looked up, and we--I looked at
And in fact, I met a girl that night when I went to the bathroom, and
I--she said she went to law school, and I said, `How marvelous. I
could never do that. Tell me about it. How do you do it?' And she
said, `Well, I'm engaged to Phil Graham, and he comes by and picks me
up, and we talk things over and that helps a lot.' So I just said,
`Oh.' And then he l--they broke up and he went out with a friend of
mine called Alice Barry. And she said did I know Phil, and I said,
`No, I didn't.' And she said, `You should. He's just the greatest
here.' And I said, `Oh.' And then about New Year's, my sister gave a
party and invited everybody at the house where they were then living,
and there were 12 of them. And he was in the party, and we first got
to know each other that way. And this developed rather quickly
because the third time we went out together, he discussed marriage.
LAMB: Third time?
Ms. GRAHAM: The third time.
LAMB: And how much later did you marry him?
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, I said, `We sh--this was a little hasty and not,'
but I was really intrigued by the idea. But I said we had to be very
deliberate and wait a month. And I think we hardly did wait a month,
and we were married that June, after the s--he was working for
Justice--Supreme Court Justice Stanley Reed, and he was going to clerk
for Justice Frankfurter the next year, so when the court adjourned, we
were married June 5th, 1940.
LAMB: And both Justices Reed and Frankfurter were at the wedding?
Ms. GRAHAM: They were.
LAMB: What--one--one of them the best man?
Ms. GRAHAM: No.
LAMB: No? Justice Frankfurter was how close to you and your husband
as--during those years?
Ms. GRAHAM: He was a mentor to Phil, who had gotten to know him when
he was still at the Harvard Law School and who chose the first five
clerks from the law school boys he knew, an--of which Phil was one.
And he w--I had known him because my parents were friends of his, too,
but I didn't know him well. And that year, we really became great
friends, and he was simply wonderful to us. And he was so funny and
so intimate. He--he--he liked the boys to argue with him, and
particularly his law clerks were--and they were--if they didn't agree
with him, they would all indulge in screaming fights to my kind of--I
was shocked by some of their manners, but he liked this confrontation,
and he liked to discuss issues like that. And he was wonderful to me
and to us, and both he and Mrs. Frankfurter, who became a friend,
too, were very, very close to us.
LAMB: How many children did you and Phil Graham have?
Ms. GRAHAM: We had four. We had--I have four. My oldest is
Elizabeth Weymouth, who is a journalist and writes for The Post and on
foreign affairs, but other things, too.
LAMB: Known as Lally?
Ms. GRAHAM: Known as Lally. And Donald, who is chief executive
officer of the company. William, called Bill, who has an investment
partnership in Los Angeles, but who lives on the vineyard in the
summer and is very interested and loves the vineyard and lives next
door to me with his children, and I love that. And Steven, who is
married and lives in New York and is getting a postgraduate degree
in--in literature and is in teaching, but he has been in the theater
and has produced and--and has an experimental theater going.
LAMB: You lost a son?
Ms. GRAHAM: I lost our first baby, which was tremendously traumatic,
who was born full term, but because it was in Washington during--at
the beginning of the war and the hospitals were very busy. And it was
an--it was a s--an accidental thing in the hospital; it really
shouldn't have happened. And Phil went in the Army right afterwards,
so it was pretty devastating, yes.
LAMB: What impact did it have on you? Do you remember?
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, I w--it was just awful, because I thought Phil was
going in the Army, it was the end of everything, we'd never have any
children, something might happen to him. It was a pretty awful
LAMB: How long did you--how long did Phil Graham spend in the--in the
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, he went in in--it was two and a half years, I
LAMB: When did he go to work for The Post?
Ms. GRAHAM: My father talked to him when he was in officers school.
He had, by this time, invested heavily of both financial resources and
energy and--and effort in building up The Post. And it was very
discouraging because they were losing money every year. And he was
making progress of great kinds, both in circulation and, to some
extent, in advertising, but it just looked terribly discouraging. And
h--he wanted to make sure that he had a successor in place, that there
was some point to all this work. And my brother was a psy--was, by
then, a psychiatrist and was interested in medicine, and so he asked
Phil if he'd be interested. And we had long talks about it, and I
said he had to decide, and he did, finally. And he said what did I
think, and I said, `Well, I loved Washington, but I was willing'--he
wanted, originally, to go into law and politics in Florida, and so...
LAMB: His half--his half-brother being Senator Bob Graham.
Ms. GRAHAM: That is true. And Bob did just what Phil kind of
aspired to, and that's nice. I think he's a great and very fine
LAMB: How many years was Phil Graham the publisher?
Ms. GRAHAM: Seventeen. And during that time--he became publisher
when he was not quite 31, because my father--he went on The Post right
after he got back and we had terminal leave. It was January of '46.
And six months later, my father was offered to be president of the
World Bank by President Truman. And he said to Phil, `I won't leave
if you don't want me to, but this is kind of my first love,' because
that was the kind of thing he'd done for the government, and he
thought somebody ought to start this World Bank. And Phil said no,
that was all right, he should do what he wanted to do. And so my
father did that and named Phil publisher. So he took up the struggle.
And from '47 to '54, he, too, had the same kind of time, really,
really, difficult time. And in '54, my father, who had come back from
the Worlds Bank--or the World Bank, actually, six months after he
went, because he did get it started and he did get the regulations
changed that made him really frustrated, and he felt that he couldn't
do any more than he'd done at his age. And so he had resigned and
come back, but he left Phil as publisher.
LAMB: The last time we had our cameras in Robert McNamara's office,
he told me that the desk that he uses is your father's desk when he
was the first head of the World Bank.
Ms. GRAHAM: He did. He had this great big, heavy kind of wonderful
desk, and he left it to the bank because, I guess, it was huge and
kind of cumbersome, and he left it there. And Bob inherited it, I
believe, took it with him--Did he?--to his own office.
LAMB: His own office, yeah.
Ms. GRAHAM: Yeah.
LAMB: The reason I bring it up is that you're still close friends
with Bob McNamara today.
Ms. GRAHAM: I am. He's a good friend.
LAMB: Did he serve on the board, eventually, of The Washington Post?
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes, he did. Yes, he did.
LAMB: The--you have devoted a lot of time here to your husband--your
deceased husband. Had the story about his death ever been told in the
detail that you told it?
Ms. GRAHAM: Not co--coherent--not consecutively. I think most of
what I told had been here and there.
LAMB: Had you--it--was it hard for you to do that, retell that story,
rethink it, relive it?
Ms. GRAHAM: It wasn't ev--easy, and not only because of the
sensitivity of what I was writing, but because I wanted to be sure to
put it in context. It was a comparatively short period in which he
was--in which he was finally very ill and did some quite aberrational
things; and that most of our life together was wonderful and that he
was wonderful. And I didn't want the bad part at the end to
overshadow the very, very good part. And I wanted to tell--one of the
reasons I wrote this book was to say how great he was and my parents
were, each o--in their own way. I thought they were three people who
deserved to be remembered and--and to be written about.
LAMB: What were the circumstances of his death?
Ms. GRAHAM: He was subject to manic depressive illness before
lithium. I think it was being experimented with, but it certainly
wasn't being used. And he went to a psychiatrist who didn't believe
in drugs of any kind of electric shock or anything. And so Phil
himself didn't because of the psychiatrists and because he naively
thought it left you not as--as human as you had been, that it affected
And so he didn't want--I--I don't think there were any--much was
available, but he didn't want it, either. And so he essentially
suffered from untreated manic depression. At the end, he went off
with a young woman, a researcher at Newsweek whom he met and very
quickly picked up and took up with, and it was finally, after some
hesitations and backs and forths, he left with her and said that what
was the matter with him was me and that he wanted a divorce, and he
was going to keep the paper and--and he was going to marry her. And
then, as I kind of thought might happen because this was pretty
spectacular, as you can imagine, in '62...
LAMB: Was it public?
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes. Of, course, it finally had to be. It wasn't
for--at first. But we had successfully hidden his illness, which had
really started getting serious in 1957, and from then on the cycles
were getting closer and--and worse. But people didn't know about it
until this very public event happened. And so they thought, `Well,
this--this is what happens sometimes,' and he--they didn't really like
it. I even said to one friend, `You know, he's ill,' and she said,
`Don't say that. Everybody says that when their husband leaves them.'
And so I realized that I'd better not say that, but I knew that this
was part of it. And he got depressed in the summer of that year, in
July, and came...
Ms. GRAHAM: 1963.
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes.
LAMB: Yeah. Because Jack Kennedy was killed in November, and you
were all close?
Ms. GRAHAM: Ye--well, not close, but they were--they were friends,
and Phil knew the president pretty well, and I--I knew of them, too.
And we did see something of them. And he was also good friends with
the vice president. And so he came home and asked the girl to go back
home, and he came back to us, but he was so ill and so depressed, and
I had seen him through two of these depressions, and I just felt
unequal to doing it again. And he was asked to and voluntarily did go
to a hospital from which he succeeded in getting a day off during
which he killed himself.
LAMB: Now you talk about your life together and all the people you
knew, but I guess it was at the moment in the Eisenhower
administration where your husband was actively involved in the civil
rights movement and in--in influencing the Arkansas situation, Central
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes. He'd gotten--he'd gotten involved a little bit. I
think he was very--he--he felt very Southern, and he was very involved
in civil rights and in civil liberties. And actually, in 1957, he had
become involved with then majority leader, Lyndon Johnson, in passing
the 1957 civil rights law, and he had very much helped him get that
law passed by talking to Joe Rou and the NAACP and by telling them
that the voting--there were no Voting Rights in--Act, and it was--I
mean, there were--there were voting rights and not school
desegregation, and there was a jury regulation in it that it--you
could appeal to a jury, which at that time were largely white. So it
was a very weak civil rights law, but it was the first one in about 84
years. And Phil persuaded Joe Rou, who persuaded the NAACP to accept
this, and that's the way it got passed.
LAMB: He also was the first chairman of Comsat?
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes. And during--actually, during the Eisenhower period
which you referred to, he had become involved in the desegregation of
the Little Rock school, and he wanted to prevent Eisenhower
sen--sending the troops in there. And he worked very hard and
somewhat frantically to try to get everybody together and get the
school desegregated. And when it failed, which it o--was going to
because Governor Faubus was standing firm against the idea of
de--school desegregation. I think it threw him into his first
depression in 1957, actually.
LAMB: What--the reason I mention the Comsat thing--what is your
opinion today about how involved people in the media ought to be with
Ms. GRAHAM: I see you were talking about--just before he died, he
was head of the Communications Satellite...
Ms. GRAHAM: ...Incorporated. And he was head of that. And I...
LAMB: Which was a half-government, half-private...
Ms. GRAHAM: Half government, half private. And yet he maintained
his role as publisher. I think that's really not what anybody could
dream of doing these days. And before that, he was heavily involved
in politics and involved with Lyndon Johnson and involved, as you
said, with Little Rock and involved, actually--I tell a story about
desegregation of the--of the swimming pools in Washington, which he
kept the story out of the paper and made a deal with this Interior
Department that if he quieted the story of a riot that had taken place
about swimming pools, that they would desegregate them. Well, that
was using the paper and--and influencing the news. And I think that's
unacceptable these days and--because you have to influence events by
telling--giving people information by which they can make decisions.
And so I think it wouldn't happen today.
LAMB: You wrote--on Page 140, you said, `It wasn't until years later
that I looked at the downside of all this and realized that,
perversely, I had seemed to enjoy the role of doormat wife. For
whatever reason, I liked to be dominated and to be the implementer.'
Ms. GRAHAM: I meant that just the way it's written. I didn't feel
put-upon, and I adored our life. I liked being what I called the
chief operating officer. I did everything at home. I kept the houses
running; I took care of the children. I made the decisions about
summers. I bought and sold houses and moved. I did everything that
most families, I think, share because he was so--working so hard, and
I knew--I was trying to take the pressure off by doing everything at
home. And I was interested in our life; I was interested in meeting
the people we met. I adored the family. I don't know that I saw
myself the way people would view that situation now in which you
really were brought up to think that men were intellectually superior,
and that you kind of live intellectually off them, which is, of
course, ridiculous. Even--you can work or not work these days; women
have choices. That's the main point. But you have to have your own
identity and your own interests.
LAMB: You point out in the book that he's buried, literally, right
across the street from where you live?
Ms. GRAHAM: That's true.
LAMB: How did that happen?
Ms. GRAHAM: In a really weird way, because the cemetery--it's a
perfectly beautiful cemetery across the street, Oak Hill, and there
weren't many places--and it's a very old cemetery. And he got kind of
interested in having a plot there for us and it was kind of like
getting into a club or something. Our great friends, the Bruces, and
the John Walkers and the Atchesons and people we knew all had these
plots there, and he made jokes about this and said we should be
sandwiched in there somewhere. And one day he came home from a school
meeting and said, `Well, I've got this plot because I've become
acquainted with somebody on the St. Albans School Board and we can
get in. And it became a family kind of joke and he even made
lugubrious jokes about, `You can just wheel me across the street.' I
mean, you know, with what happened, of course, it's--it's appalling,
but you--you never thought of it as a reality.
And so we were at the church at the funeral and my children--and one
of my sons and other people had made the arrangements, so I had no
idea that this plot was literally across the street from the house in
front of the little chapel. And I was pretty startled when we arrived
there after the service to find that it was right there in front of my
eyes. And at first it bothered me, but now I really like it.
LAMB: And you've lived in that house for the last 34 years?
Ms. GRAHAM: Fifty.
LAMB: And you've never remarried.
Ms. GRAHAM: No.
LAMB: But we learn in the book that you had some suitors like Adlai
Stevenson at one point.
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, I--you know, I had friends. Let's put it that
LAMB: Has it been hard to be in a job like yours and resist the--you
know, the attention you can get from men?
Ms. GRAHAM: Actually, no, because I really work terribly hard and I
moved around where I had to and I led a life that was, really,
essentially, work; even if I went out in the evening, it was either
something I had to do or really did want to do, or I stayed home. And
I--I don't think there was room in that life to get married to anybody
that is very strong and wanted me to be there more than I was. So it
really never came up as a practical fact.
LAMB: A--after your husband shot himself, how long was it before you
took over The Post?
Ms. GRAHAM: I went away for a month and came back and went to work,
but that wasn't to say I took over The Post. I went to work to learn
the issues. I didn't really see myself as taking over The Post, but I
did go to work right away. And gradually I learned that you couldn't
sit there studying the thing. And I was encouraged to by some of the
executives and mainly by Fritz--Frederick Beebe, who was--whom Phil
had made the chairman, who had been our corporate lawyer. And he
said, `You have to come to work.' And I was happy to do that, because
I cared a great deal about the company and about The Post which I'd
lived--struggled for its existence. It'd been part of my whole life,
and I knew what had gone into it making it as successful as it even
was, which was still competitive. And so gradually, having gone to
work to learn, Fritz be--I worked with him and worked as president of
the company and I became publisher when John Swederman, who had
publisher--made publisher by Phil--left. And then Fritz died 10 years
later just after we'd gone public. And so then I became head of--then
I did take over the company.
LAMB: You call 1971 and 1976 the turbulent years. Why?
Ms. GRAHAM: Right. Well, because rapidly we went through the
Pentagon papers and Watergate, and just as I thought things had calmed
down, we went through a very violent pressmen's strike in '75. So
those--those were three really cosmic events and--that happened
and--and in public, so to speak.
LAMB: The--the Pentagon papers chapter, when you're reading
that--I--I wrote some--some names back--down the back, because there's
so many people that people have heard of were involved at one time. I
wanted to see if you can explain it. People have been in government
and out, and in law firms and out, and I just want to know how you
kept all these people straight. For instance, you had--your lawyer at
one time Bill Rogers who had become secretary of state...
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes, that was...
LAMB: ...during the time of the Pentagon papers. In other words,
Ms. GRAHAM: No.
LAMB: He wasn't your lawyer then, but he--he was secretary of
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes.
LAMB: ...but he had been your lawyer.
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes. Right.
LAMB: Paul Ignatius was--was he president of your company?
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes.
LAMB: And he had been secretary of the Navy.
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes.
LAMB: But he was at your company then.
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes.
LAMB: Rozwell Kilpatrick played a role somewhere in your company.
Ms. GRAHAM: Roz was not--A, he was in a--involved with us as a law
partner in Cravath and before that he'd been in the government.
LAMB: Was he deputy sec...
Ms. GRAHAM: And then he went on--he was on our--yes, he was deputy
LAMB: And Ed Williams had--Edward Bennett Williams had been your
Ms. GRAHAM: When he was--when he was thinking he wanted a divorce.
LAMB: Divorce and take some of your money and go the other way. And
then you ended up leaning him at a time--for a price...
Ms. GRAHAM: We became very close friends, and then he came in as the
lawyer mu--later--actually, we--Fri--Fritz Beebe and I brought him in
LAMB: And Bob McNamara was at Scotty Reston's home the night that the
Pentagon papers were published in The New York Times.
Ms. GRAHAM: Right.
LAMB: And he'd ask him advice, as you point out in your book here.
Ms. GRAHAM: Yeah.
LAMB: And he told the same story here. And in addition to that,
Scotty Reston was a very close friend of yours...
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes.
LAMB: ...who ran The New York Times Washington bureau that you tried
to get to work for you.
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes.
LAMB: I guess that I was reading this, I just said--and then Ben
Bagdikian was your national editor who you went on not to think so
highly of later on in your book as I remember.
Ms. GRAHAM: Mmm.
LAMB: Critical of The Post later on.
Ms. GRAHAM: A little.
LAMB: OK. Anyway, the Pentagon papers--how do you do--you do you
deal in a town like this when one day somebody's your lawyer, the next
day they're in the government and you stay pat, but everybody else
is--stay put and everybody else is moving around. You ever get
Ms. GRAHAM: No, because once people are in the government, the
relationship changes. And you can be friends with people in the
government, but you have--they remember and you remember the paper
comes first. And sometimes the paper attacks your friends or does
things even that you think are even unfair to your friends. And
sometimes you can reason with the editors, but mostly you have to just
stand by them.
LAMB: When you travel, and as you go around talking to people on
the--on the book tour--and you've lived in Sioux City, if I remember
Ms. GRAHAM: Sioux Falls.
LAMB: Sioux Falls. You live in Chicago, you live in San Francisco.
Where else? Any other cities for very long?
Ms. GRAHAM: Not much. It's really Washington most of the time.
LAMB: But what I was getting at is people look at The Post and they
look at Washington and they just--you know, they're cynical about all
the power and the control and--and how do you--how do you tell them
about the--you know, the folks that are way away from here, saying you
don't have too much power.
Ms. GRAHAM: I try to explain what the power of a newspaper or a
magazine or television stations are. For instance, The Post has the
power to inform people, and where they play a story matters, probably.
If they cover it well, it matters. Because you're talking to the
government as well as people in Washington. But you don't have the
power they--sometimes people think you run downstairs and talk to
editors. You don't--I mean, about a story, a particular--you never
see stories before they get in the papers. You have the power to pick
an editor you think--or a publisher or whatever it is--that will do
the job well and that is in your general mode of thought. But after
that, they really have autonomy. And so you don't have the power
to--I mean, that people envision you as having, of making or breaking
people or influencing events directly. You have more--it sounds like
goody two-shoes, but you have more responsibility than power.
LAMB: You wrote on Page 360, you say that `News columns had to be
fair and detached even while recognizing that there really is no such
thing as objectivity.'
Ms. GRAHAM: `Detached' is the word that I think is better
because--and objectivity, the way that most people interpret it, you
can have. But you exercise--an--an editor exercises a judgment when
you just think, `What is relevant?' You have to make selections of
what goes into the paper and what doesn't. So that's what I mean by
there is no--there's no such thing as objectivity, because the human
being does that. And you do it the best you can to be fair and
detached and--and accurate. But you are making a human judgment and
a--there is a person making it. That's all I mean.
LAMB: I wanted to--do you remember who the first person you
personally had to fire, and what the experience was like?
Ms. GRAHAM: I do, but I don't want to talk about it.
LAMB: Well, but you talk about a lot of people--I mean...
Ms. GRAHAM: I talk about it in the book, that he was a dear friend
and it was very painful.
LAMB: Phil Dillan?
Ms. GRAHAM: No, Al Friendly.
LAMB: Is Al Friendly's grandson over working for Bill Clinton?
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes, Andrew.
LAMB: Andrew Friendly, yeah. He's the guy that's with him all the
time on every trip.
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: Here's what I wanted to ask you, though. Talk to me--is it
Peter--is it Dereaux?
Ms. GRAHAM: Dereaux.
LAMB: `He said that he felt I was hopelessly--a hopelessly inadequate
leader and that he had little choice but to leave for the dynamic CBS.
He touched a raw sensitivity when he assaulted me for not being a
professional manager, and I must confess that I wept on and off for at
least two days.'
Ms. GRAHAM: Mortifying but true.
LAMB: Why--why did you admit all this? And--and what was the
Ms. GRAHAM: I really don't know. Maybe I shouldn't have. But I
tend to be up-front and honest, so I guess I just told it the way it
LAMB: He was powe--he was--when was--when was Peter Dereaux there
with you, and what job did he have?
Ms. GRAHAM: He was--I don't know, I forget his actual title. He was
the running--he was--first he was number two businessperson at
Newsweek and he--then, actually, after that incredible scene, he came
back from CBS and ran the business side of Newsweek.
LAMB: And he actually told you to your face that he thought you were
doing a lousy job.
Ms. GRAHAM: Yeah.
LAMB: But then you go on, about 20 pages later, and you say, `To add
to my anxieties during this difficult period, Peter Dereaux told me he
found another job.' He--he left you and told you he didn't like what
you did and you brought him back?
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes.
Ms. GRAHAM: I can't answer that. I don't know.
LAMB: OK. OK, but le--later he said he--he was...
Ms. GRAHAM: It seemed like the thing to do at the time, but it
was--wasn't a good idea.
LAMB: Then he was gone--he went back to CBS and then he came to you
again and you had a chat and you said, `He was quite willing start in
again on what was wrong with me and the company, but I--by this time I
had grown tougher and told him that once was enough. It seemed to
irritate him not to be able to--to repeat the monologue of--on my
failings.' How did--what toughened you up?
Ms. GRAHAM: Time and experience.
LAMB: And--and to what purpose did all that--did you put that to once
you toughened up?
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, I think I could make decisions better and--and
more firmly and stick by them and not quite ask so much advice.
LAMB: You--you say that when you...
Ms. GRAHAM: Although I think you always ask some advice.
LAMB: You say that when you first got to--to The Post and were in
charge that you were petrified about speaking.
Ms. GRAHAM: Couldn't open my mouth. I had to practice in front of
the children the first year I was working at the paper. I was asked
to go down and say `Merry Christmas' at the company lunch and I
literally--my children are hilarious, they keep telling this story. I
practiced making this speech saying `Merry Christmas' in front of the
children, because I'd never said anything in public to--even my
children lined up in a row.
LAMB: What moment do you remember where you had to make the most
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, I made a lot of speeches defending us during
Watergate. I guess that's when I started really speaking the most.
And I was trying to explain that we were reporting a story and that we
weren't after the administration and that we weren't--it wasn't our
intention to do them in, that we were following the footsteps of the
story. And so I started speaking quite a lot that year, '72,
'7--well, probably it's later, '73 and '74.
LAMB: In the short time remaining, let me ask you about the
presidents, because there're pictures in here with you and every
president since Lyndon Johnson--John Kennedy. What'd you think of
Ms. GRAHAM: I found him irresistibly charming, attractive. And it
was awfully exciting having someone you knew as president--having your
generation in the White House and having these young people there. I
thought they were marvelous.
LAMB: How is he today, in retrospect?
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, I think that he did turn things around and excited
people, but in the three years he had before he died, I don't think he
had the chance to really get an awful lot done of what he was trying
to do. I think that President Johnson succeeded him and got
legislation passed that he wanted to get done but didn't.
LAMB: Lyndon Johnson undressed in front of you one night?
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, that was another quite funny story, because I was
at his 34th wedding anniversary, and just as we were--he was in a
pretty bad mood, anyway. It was during the Vietnam War. And
afterwards we went upstairs and he just went to bed and left us. And
his bedroom, oddly, was right next door to the upstairs living room,
the yellow room, and there were some double doors between.
And suddenly he came out--we were saying good night to Mrs. Johnson,
and the doors were flung open and he came out and said, `Come here.'
And I looked over my shoulder hoping somebody was there, but he was
saying it to me. And then he said, `Come here' to Abe Fortas who was
then, I believe, on the Supreme Court.
And we went into his bedroom and The Post was lying on the bed and
to--a man called Tobriner was the chief commissioner in the
district--there were still three, but he was kind of like the
appointed mayor. And he ha--we had been for him and had backed him,
so he was our--from the Johnson point of view, he was our creation.
And he had appointed a police commissioner without consulting the
president, which he had told him to do, and he was very displeased
because he wanted to prove something about being anti-crime by
appointing a super police commissioner. So he was really mad that
Tobriner had gone ahead and done this.
And he started yelling at me about `our goddamn mayor' and he
was--this idea and it was our fault he'd appointed this man, hadn't
asked him when he--he, again, consulted him and he wanted to do it.
And he started to undress. And I--I mean, I was--this is '64, please.
And I was new at the job--I'd only gone to work. And he's flinging
his clothes off while he's bawling me out and I thought, `Wait a
minute. What is going to happen here? Can this be me? Am I standing
here in the president's bedroom? And--and what is going to happen?'
And he suddenly said, `Turn around.' And so I turned around and he
went right on. And finally he said, `All right, good night,' and Abe
and I both left. But, I mean, it was quite a beginning.
LAMB: Richard Nixon.
Ms. GRAHAM: I never knew him really--personally. I met him and I
talked to him and I even interviewed him on--and he came to lunch at
the paper--an editorial lunch, so I saw him a little bit, but I didn't
really know him personally. And I think that he had many good traits.
I think he was a real Jekyl-Hyde character, because he had all these
things that we see--keep seeing coming out on the tapes and this
really low-level side to him, but he was really brilliant in many
ways, and he had very many good people working for him, and I really
view him with ambivalence.
LAMB: Ronald Reagan.
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, now there was another friend, and Nancy especially
I was--knew before they were in the White House. I think you never
get to be friends with a president if you don't know them before,
because their power is so great and they see people as--as strangers.
So I thought he was--he was a leader; he--we knew what he stood for.
I think he was a very dignified man. I wasn't particularly--I didn't
agree with his--him or all that he did, but Nancy was a good friend
and still is.
LAMB: Bill Clinton.
Ms. GRAHAM: I think this--well, now we're se--starting on second
term and with both its promises and its failures, I'm very hopeful
that things are going to go well, and I certainly hope they do. I
think that there are many good signs.
LAMB: You say you don't see much of him, or haven't.
Ms. GRAHAM: Well, again, he's another generation--they're very
polite and we're n--I--I've seen them a little bit and we have a
mutual friend, Vernon Jordan, through whom I've seen them a little
bit. But there's no reason that I should see them.
LAMB: The toughest part of writing your book.
Ms. GRAHAM: It was all sort of tough, because I'm not a professional
writer and yet I really didn't want to write it with a writer because
I thought that I would get too jumpy and want to tell them what to do
too much, and so I thought I'd try to do it myself. So it was really
hard just to do it.
LAMB: Where did you write it?
Ms. GRAHAM: At home on my desk and--and I wrote it by hand.
LAMB: By hand?
Ms. GRAHAM: Yes.
LAMB: You didn't...
Ms. GRAHAM: No.
LAMB: Then what'd you do with it after you wrote it out?
Ms. GRAHAM: I gave it to my researcher who put it on a computer and
put it all in order and helped me shape it and helped me make chapters
of it and helped me get it together very--he was really essential.
And then we sent it off to the editor, who left half of it on the
cutting room floor.
LAMB: That's what I wanted to ask you next. It's 625 pages. If
they'd have put it all in that you wrote...
Ms. GRAHAM: I think it might have been 1,200.
LAMB: Is there a second book to this thing?
Ms. GRAHAM: No, that's it.
LAMB: Are you looking forward to your tour around the country?
Ms. GRAHAM: Sort of.
LAMB: Would you--what do--what do you think of the talking part of
Ms. GRAHAM: It's hard for me. It's much harder than having written
Ms. GRAHAM: I don't know why, but your voice and your--and--and
talking about it in public, I find very hard. And I'm not very good
at it, either, as you can now see.
LAMB: Katharine Graham is our guest and the book is called "Personal
History." Thank you very much.
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