Final Farewell To Katharine Graham

Thousands paid tribute Monday to Katharine Graham, filling a cavernous church with memories of a gallant lady who befriended presidents and a brave businesswoman who longed for news stories that gave her a "piece of the action."

Graham's power and influence were on display in the Washington National Cathedral, where former President Clinton and Vice President Dick Cheney shared a pew. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates traveled across the country while senators left the Capitol together in a blue-and-white striped bus to attend the funeral.

Donald Graham, the son who succeeded her as Post publisher, recalled his mother as a steadying hand in journalism during the tumultuous publishing of the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal.

"She was a believer in the oldest journalistic virtues. She loved scoops. Her only question was, 'Are you sure you are right?"' Graham told attendees. "She loved a good story and burst with pride with the people who wrote them."

Despite her power in Washington circles, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recalled, Graham remained "matter of factly loyal to her friends and deeply devoted to her family."

Kissinger noted his friendship with Graham grew despite the fact that the Post under her stewardship often was a relentless critic of the administrations in which he served.

"This paradox was overwhelmed by the admiration and affection I felt for Kay as a person," Kissinger said, recalling how Graham once took him out to the movies because he looked weary from dealing with the Vietnam War.

Graham's former executive editor, Ben Bradlee, called Graham "a spectacular dame" and told how she jumped out of the shower for a phone call from President Ronald Reagan and took notes.

"Great owners help reporters and editors shine a bright light on the darkest corners of society," Bradlee said. "This is what Kay Graham brought to the table, plus so much more. Like a love for the news, a love for answers, and a love for the piece of the action."

Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., another close friend, said Graham was a trailblazer who left a lasting mark on American history. "Katharine Graham was a very gallant lady. She will leave an enduring mark on the nation's capital and the irreverent press," he said.

Bill Graham, another son, opened the funeral by reading from the Book of Revelation, and the congregation followed by reading aloud from Psalm 23.

Led by former Sen. John Danforth, an Episcopal priest, and other priests, Graham's casket was carried in by former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, lawyer Vernon Jordan and broadcast executive Barry Diller, among others.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed "Sarabande" from Bach's "Sixth Cello Suite."

Mrs. Graham was a daughter of banker Eugene Meyer, a Jew, and writer Agnes Meyer, a Lutheran. The couple raised their children in the Episcopal church.

Graham, a trailblazer among women in business and journalism, also was honored by those who followe her in the profession, including television news anchors Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer who served as ushers. Graham died Tuesday at 84.

As prominent as she was on the national stage, Graham remained closely linked with the issues and personalities in the District of Columbia. Two former Washington mayors, Walter Washington and Marion Barry, as well as the city's top police officials, attended.

"She's one of the leading people in the 20th century," Mayor Anthony Williams told CNN on the steps of the church, "and we're very, very proud to have called her our own."

Theater producer Mike Nichols and investor Warren Buffett were among the funeral ushers.

The list of notables attending the funeral read like the high-powered guest lists of those who frequented Graham's dinner parties. They included Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, and filmmaker Ken Burns. Among the media representatives were Associated Press chief executive Louis D. Boccardi and Donald Newhouse, chairman of the AP board.

Graham, who served as chairman of The Washington Post Co. for two decades, died Tuesday, three days after suffering a head injury in a fall outside a condominium in Sun Valley, Idaho. A private burial was planned at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington.

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