Publisher Katharine Graham honored with stamp

Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post and the first female head of a Fortune 500 company, will be honored June 14 with the 17th stamp in the Distinguished Americans series.

Graham was the daughter of Eugene Meyer, a businessman who bought a then-struggling Washington Post in 1933 at a fire-sale price.

She married Supreme Court law clerk Phil Graham in 1940. After Meyer made her husband publisher in 1946, The Post grew in circulation and stature, adding Newsweek magazine and television stations to its portfolio.

In the wake of her husband’s tragic death in 1963, Graham, a widow with four children, little journalism experience and no business background, stepped in as publisher.

Perhaps the defining moment of her remarkable tenure was the momentous decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, a leaked, classified history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

The New York Times got hold of the document first and published excerpts, but a federal injunction barred the paper from any further publication. The Post then obtained a copy.

Graham was urged by journalists to publish and advised by lawyers not to. Adding to the tension of the moment — dramatized in the Steven Spielberg movie “The Post” — was the fact that The Washington Post Co. was scheduled to go public around the same time.

Her brave decision to publish, and the Times and Post’s subsequent joint victory in a First Amendment case before the Supreme Court, was a watershed moment in American journalism.

Graham was also publisher during The Post’s coverage of Watergate, the scandal that toppled the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

Her 1997 memoir, “Personal History,” won a Pulitzer Prize.

She died in 2001 and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom the next year.

The 2-ounce denomination stamp was designed by Derry Noyes, with original art by Lynn Staley based on a 1970s photograph of Graham.

The Distinguished Americans series began in 2000. Previous honorees include author Harriet Beecher Stowe, virologist Jonas Salk and athlete Wilma Rudolph.


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