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Katherine Graham (1917-2001)

William J. Brennan, Jr. Defense of Freedom Award Recipient, 1996

Former Publisher and Chief Executive Officer, The Washington Post

KGraham_-_for_the_webOn June 17, 1971, Katharine Graham made the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in The Washington Post amidst a hurricane of controversy.  The New York Times had been enjoined from continuing its own publication of the documents -- a ruling that could make The Post's decision to publish seem defiant of the law and disrespectful of the courts. The Government was claiming the country's national security was seriously at risk. At the same time, The Washington Post Company was in the process of going public. Its stock had been offered to the underwriters, but not yet sold. If the company became the target of criminal action, the deal could have disintegrated, jeopardizing the company's entire financial foundation. With The Post editors urging her to proceed, the lawyers saying no, and the company's business executives counseling "take your time," Mrs. Graham decided to publish -- a ringing affirmation of her belief in the public's right to know.

Mrs. Graham is currently chairman of the executive committee of The Washington Post Company. She is also cochairman of the International Herald Tribune. She was born in New York City, attended Vassar for two years, and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1938.  In 1939, after working briefly as a reporter for The San Francisco News, she joined the editorial staff of The Washington Post, which had been purchased at a bankruptcy sale in 1933 by her father, Eugene Meyer. Her husband, Philip L. Graham, served as me Post's publisher from 1946 until his death in 1963.  Mrs. Graham became the paper's publisher in 1969, a position she held until 1979.   She was also president of the company (1963-1973), chief executive officer (1973-1991), and chairman of the board (1973-1993).

Mrs. Graham is vice chairman of the board of the Urban Institute, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Overseas Development Council, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a life trustee of the University of Chicago, a member of the independent D.C. Committee on Public Education, and a board member of A National Campaign to Reduce Teen Pregnancy. She is a past chairman and president of the American Newspaper Publishers Association and a former board member of the Associated Press.

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