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Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography
An extraordinarily frank, honest, and generous book by one of America's most famous and admired women, Personal History is, as its title suggests, a book composed of both personal memoir and history.
It is the story of Graham's parents: the multimillionaire father who left private business and government service to buy and restore the down-and-out Washington Post, and the formidable, self-absorbed mother who was more interested in her political and charity work, and her passionate friendships with men like Thomas Mann and Adlai Stevenson, than in her children.
It is the story of how The Washington Post struggled to succeed -- a fascinating and instructive business history as told from the inside (the paper has been run by Graham herself, her father, her husband, and now her son).
It is the story of Phil Graham -- Kay's brilliant, charismatic husband (he clerked for two Supreme Court justices) -- whose plunge into manic-depression, betrayal, and eventual suicide is movingly and charitably recounted.
Best of all, it is the story of Kay Graham herself. She was brought up in a family of great wealth, yet she learned and understood nothing about money. She is half-Jewish, yet -- incredibly -- remained unaware of it for many years.She describes herself as having been naive and awkward, yet intelligent and energetic. She married a man she worshipped, and he fascinated and educated her, and then, in his illness, turned from her and abused her. This destruction of her confidence and happiness is a drama in itself, followed by the even more intense drama of her new life as the head of a great newspaper and a great company, a famous (and even feared) woman in her own right. Hers is a life that came into its own with a vengeance -- a success story on every level.
Graham's book is populated with a cast of fascinating characters, from fifty years of presidents (and their wives), to Steichen, Brancusi, Felix Frankfurter, Warren Buffett (her great advisor and protector), Robert McNamara, George Schultz (her regular tennis partner), and, of course, the great names from the Post: Woodward, Bernstein, and Graham's editorpartner, Ben Bradlee. She writes of them, and of the most dramatic moments of her stewardship of the Post (including the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the pressmen's strike), with acuity, humor, and good judgment. Her book is about learning by doing, about growing and growing up, about Washington, and about a woman liberated by both circumstance and her own great strengths.
as did my mother by cable. I felt it would be impossible—even apart from the children, there was much too much to do, given the will, the estate, the company. Their rejoinder was that they had already packed for me and had my passport, and that I was going. I finally agreed to the plan. Bill and Steve bravely returned to their camps. Don stayed at his job with Scotty, living at home and spending a lot of time at the Friendlys’. I took off with Luvie and Lally the day after the funeral to join my
still working inside the building and those who have chosen to stay out.” The guild reminded its members that the situation was fluid and could change at any time. On October 7, the guild voted a third time to stay in, but this time by an even smaller margin, 270 to 251. Oddly, the pressmen actually managed to help us in our efforts to keep the guild working. Whenever we were extremely nervous, they would pull some stunt that outraged guild members and helped keep them in. One such occurred when
institution to trying to help the nations of the so-called Third World. Northern countries were distressed by the radical rhetoric of the countries of the South and their irrational demands for billions of dollars in aid, and the countries of the South were angered at what they viewed as the insensitivity and heartlessness of the North. Bob’s idea was to ask a group to look at these problems as individuals rather than as representatives of their countries, and he had tapped Willy Brandt, former
the Bank, Phil had to learn even faster, but he had grasped the overall picture, so he focused on finding the right people to carry the paper forward editorially and financially. Some of the personnel decisions my father had already made had a positive effect on Phil and a lasting effect on the paper. For example, Gene Elderman, the Post’s editorial cartoonist since 1932, had been imperceptibly drinking himself out of his job. From the beginning of 1943 until the beginning of 1946, the Post had
Post reporters, won the National Headliners’ Club award for outstanding public service and was reprinted widely throughout the country. In fact, the paper was more and more being recognized. The Newspaper Guild, in the course of giving its Heywood Broun awards in early 1948, said of the Post: “In these days when playing it safe and treading softly is so general, the record of The Washington Post in 1947 is truly extraordinary. It is a vivid demonstration of what an outstanding newspaper is like