PHILIP LESLIE "PHIL" GRAHAM (July 18, 1915 – August 3, 1963) was an
American newspaper publisher. He was the publisher (from 1946 until
his death) and co-owner (from 1948) of
The Washington Post
The Washington Post . He was
Katharine Graham , the daughter of Eugene Meyer , the
previous owner of The Washington Post.
* 1 Early life
* 2 Marriage and children
* 3 Career at
The Washington Post
The Washington Post Company
* 3.1 Leadership of company under Graham
* 4 Involvement in politics
* 5 "First rough draft of history"
* 6 Health problems and death
* 7 Posthumous honors
* 8 Notes
* 9 References
Philip (Phil) Leslie Graham was born to a
Lutheran family in Terry,
South Dakota . He was raised in
Miami where his father, Ernest R.
("Cap") Graham , made a career in farming and real estate, and was
elected to the State Senate . His mother, the former Florence Morris,
had been a schoolteacher in the
Black Hills of South Dakota. Graham
was one of four children. One half brother,
Bob Graham , is a former
governor of the state of
Florida (1979–1987) and a former United
States Senator representing
Florida from 1987 to 2005.
Miami High School and graduated from the University
Florida in 1936, with a
Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, and
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School , where he was editor of the Harvard Law
Review and earned a magna cum laude degree, in 1939. Graham was a
member of both
Florida Blue Key and
Sigma Alpha Epsilon
Sigma Alpha Epsilon (Florida
Upsilon chapter) and was both a fraternity brother and roommate of the
George A. Smathers
George A. Smathers whom he had been close to since
Miami High School with Smathers. In 1939–1940 he was law
United States Supreme Court Justice Stanley F. Reed , and the
following year he was clerk to Justice
Felix Frankfurter , who had
been one of his professors at Harvard.
MARRIAGE AND CHILDREN
On June 5, 1940, he married
Katharine Graham , the daughter of Eugene
Meyer , a multi-millionaire and the owner of The Washington Post, a
struggling newspaper at the time. The couple settled down in a
two-story row house.
World War II
World War II , Graham enlisted in the
United States Army Air
Corps as a private in 1942 and rose to the rank of major by war's end.
His wife followed him on military assignments to Sioux Falls, South
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania up until 1945, when he went to the
Pacific theatre as an intelligence officer of the Far East Air Force
which was created in August 1944.
Their first baby died at birth. Four children followed: Elizabeth
(\'Lally\') Morris Graham , now Weymouth (born July 3, 1943), Donald
Edward Graham (April 22, 1945), William Welsh Graham (born 1948), and
Stephen Meyer Graham (born 1952).
CAREER AT THE WASHINGTON POST COMPANY
In 1946, when Washington Post publisher Eugene Meyer was named the
first president of the
World Bank , he passed the position of
publisher to Graham. When Meyer left the
World Bank later that year,
he took the title of chairman of the board of the Washington Post
Company , leaving Graham as publisher.
In 1948, Meyer transferred his actual control of the Post Company
stock (the company was privately owned) to his daughter and her
Katharine Graham received 30 percent as a gift. Phil received
70 percent of the stock, his purchase financed by his father-in-law.
Meyer remained a close adviser to his son-in-law until his death in
1959, at which time Graham assumed the titles of President and
Chairman of the Board of the Post company.
LEADERSHIP OF COMPANY UNDER GRAHAM
* In 1949, the Post Company purchased a controlling ownership
interest in Washington radio station WTOP , jointly owned with
This marked the beginnings of the Post Company's involvement in
broadcasting. The following year the Post/
CBS joint venture bought the
CBS-affiliated television station in Washington, and changed the call
letters to WTOP-TV (later WDVM-TV, and now WUSA-TV), and in 1953 the
company bought WMBR radio and WMBR-TV (now WJXT) in Jacksonville,
Florida . The company gained full ownership of the WTOP stations in
* In 1954, the Post Company bought the competing morning newspaper,
the Times-Herald, for $8.5 million. The Post kept most of the
Times-Herald's advertising, features, columnists and comics — and
most of its readers. It immediately jumped ahead of the Evening Star ,
the city's prominent afternoon paper, in circulation, and in 1959, it
passed the Star in advertising linage.
* In 1961, the Post Company purchased the controlling stock interest
Newsweek from the
Vincent Astor Foundation. When the deal was
New York City
New York City , Graham wrote a check for $2,000,000 as a
down payment on the $8,985,000 purchase price.
* In 1962, the Post Company again expanded into the magazine field
Art News , the most widely read monthly in the art field,
and Portfolio , a hard-cover art quarterly, from Albert M.
INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICS
While running the Washington Post and other parts of the Post
Company, Graham played a backstage role in national and local
In 1954, Graham was the leading force behind the founding of the
Federal City Council , a highly influential group of business, civic,
education, and other leaders interested in economic development in
In 1960, he helped persuade his friend
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy to take Lyndon
Johnson on his ticket as the vice presidential candidate, personally
talking with both men multiple times during the 1960 Democratic
National Convention in
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California . During the 1960
campaign, he wrote the drafts for several speeches that Johnson gave.
After Kennedy and Johnson were elected in November, he successfully
lobbied for the appointment of
Douglas Dillon as Secretary of the
Treasury , and had multiple discussions with Kennedy about other
appointments. In the several years after the inaugural, he continued
to write occasional drafts of speeches, primarily for Johnson, but
also for the President and for
Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy .
In 1961, Kennedy named Graham to serve as an incorporator for the
Communications Satellite Corporation, known as
COMSAT , a joint
venture between the private sector and government for satellite
communications. In October 1961, he was appointed chairman of the
"FIRST ROUGH DRAFT OF HISTORY"
In April 1963, Graham delivered a speech to the overseas
London : "So let us today drudge on
about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first
rough draft of history that will never really be completed about a
world we can never really understand…"
The phrase " first rough draft of history" has entered the
vernacular. While the quote may have been popularized by Graham in
this speech, and the phrase is often credited to him in this speech,
the words did not originate with him or with that speech. The phrase
had been used repeatedly in the Post in the 1940s and by Graham in the
1950s, with the earliest citation by
Alan Barth : "News is only the
first rough draft of history," and earlier expressions of similar
sentiments dating to the first decade of the 1900s.
HEALTH PROBLEMS AND DEATH
In Katharine Graham's book
Personal History , she notes that her
husband was always intense and spontaneous, but occasionally lapsed
into periods of depression . In 1957, he suffered a severe manic
episode and, at the time, no medicines were available for effective
treatment. He retired to the couple's farm in
Marshall, Virginia , to
recuperate. Thereafter, periods in which he functioned brilliantly
alternated with periods in which he was morose and erratic and
isolated himself. He often drank heavily (something he had done prior
to 1957), and would become extremely argumentative and blunt.
Through the Post Company's
Newsweek arm, Graham eventually met
Australian journalist Robin Webb, and in 1962 they began an affair. In
1963, he and Webb flew to
Arizona ; he appeared at a newspaper
publishing convention inebriated and/or manic. At the microphone he
made a number of provocative comments, including the revelation that
Kennedy was sleeping with
Mary Pinchot Meyer
Mary Pinchot Meyer . His assistant, James
Truitt , called for his doctor, Leslie Farber, who flew in by private
jet, as did (subsequently) Graham's wife. Graham was sedated , bound
in a straitjacket, and flown back to Washington. He was committed for
five days to
Chestnut Lodge , a psychiatric hospital in Rockville,
Graham then left his wife for Robin Webb, announced to his friends
that he planned to divorce his wife and immediately remarry, and
indicated that he wanted to purchase sole control of the Post Company.
In June, in a fit of depression, he broke off his affair and returned
home. On June 20, 1963, he entered
Chestnut Lodge for the second time,
and was formally diagnosed with manic depression (now called bipolar
disorder ). He was treated with psychotherapy .
On August 3, 1963, after Graham had made repeated requests of his
doctors to be allowed a short stay away from the hospital, and "quite
noticeably much better", according to his wife, he was permitted to go
to their farmhouse in Virginia, Glen Welby, for the weekend. While his
wife was in another part of the retreat, Graham committed suicide with
a 28-gauge shotgun.
During probate , Katharine Graham's lawyer challenged the legality of
her husband's last will , written in 1963. Edward Bennett Williams
testified that Graham had not been of sound mind when he had
instructed Williams to draw up his final will . Williams said that he
had, at the same time he prepared the will, written a memorandum for
the file stating that Graham was mentally ill , and that he was
preparing the will at Graham's direction only to maintain their
relationship. The judge in the case ruled that Graham had died
intestate . A compromise was eventually reached whereby Katharine
Graham gave up part of her inheritance in favor of her children.
On March 16, 1970, the ABC affiliate station in
WLBW-TV), changed their call letters to honor Phil to WPLG-TV; The
Washington Post Company (later called Post-
Newsweek Stations, and now
known as the Graham Media Group) owned the station until it was sold
Berkshire Hathaway in 2014.
* ^ Silbiger, Steve (May 25, 2000). The Jewish Phenomenon: Seven
Keys to the Enduring Wealth of a People. Taylor Trade Publishing. p.
* ^ "L'Enfant's legacy: A worthy capital?". The Economist. April
16, 1988. p. 64.
* ^ Alan Barth, review of The Autobiography of a Curmudgeon by
Harold L. Ickes
Harold L. Ickes in
The New Republic
The New Republic , 1943, collected in The New
Republic, Volume 108, p. 677
* ^ “Who Said It First? Journalism is the ‘first rough draft of
Jack Shafer , Slate (30 August 2010)
* ^ Journalism - Wikiquote
Personal History , Katharine Graham, Knopf, 1997, ISBN
* Philip Graham, 48, Publisher, a Suicide, New York Times, August 4,