5 Things You Didn't Know About Katharine Graham

Katharine Graham helmed The Washington Post from the 1960s through 1991, and under her steady, resolute leadership the paper was able to break huge stories like the Nixon White House's cover-up of the Watergate break-in. For many years she was the only female head of a Fortune 500 company, so let's take a look at five things you might not know about this journalism and business pioneer.

1. She Had a Sad Rise to the Top

Graham's father, Eugene Meyer, bought the Post in 1933 and served as the newspaper's publisher until Harry Truman asked him to become the first head of the World Bank in 1946. Meyer named Katharine's husband, lawyer Philip Graham, as the paper's new publisher.

Graham was a capable publisher, but he had to constantly fight his bipolar disorder. By 1963 his psychological problems had become so severe that he had to seek inpatient treatment. During one stay away from his therapy center, he committed suicide by shooting himself at the family's farmhouse.

Rather than ceding control of the paper, Katharine Graham took over as the de facto new publisher of the Post following her husband's death.

Although it was unheard of for a woman to run such a large enterprise at the time, she attacked her new job with such tenacity that she eventually won over her newsroom and corporate offices. Graham later wrote of her ascent, "What I essentially did was to put one foot in front of the other, shut my eyes and step off the ledge. The surprise was that I landed on my feet."

2. The Black and White Ball Honored Her

In 1966, Truman Capote threw his Black and White Ball, a 500-person masked shindig that brought some of New York's most elite celebrities to the Plaza Hotel in disguise and either black or white garb. The guest of honor? Graham. The party was one of the most famous social events of the Sixties; invitations were so hard to secure that people later said Capote had invited 500 guests and made 15,000 enemies. Graham and Capote spent nearly two hours at the party's door shaking hands and giving kisses to senators, princesses, maharajas, and children of presidents.

Although Graham was the guest of honor, she didn't know many of Capote's famous friends, so the author had to introduce her to much of the guest list. Capote later admitted he threw the ball in part as a way to introduce Graham to New York society. (She even joked later that it was an "odd, overaged and gray coming-out party.") Although they weren't previously tight, Capote and Graham became close friends following the ball. Their relationship later took a turn when Capote revealed details of her private life to the media, though.

3. She Would Get Her Hands Dirty

Graham may have wielded a lot of power as the Post's publisher, but she wasn't hesitant about chipping in where she was needed. In 1974 a Newspaper Guild strike left the Post with less than 20 percent of its normal staff. Graham helped out by answering phones for the circulation and classified desks. In one particularly memorable episode, she took a classified ad for a used Mercedes. After reading the ad back to the seller, he remarked that she must be over-qualified for the job and that answering the phone wasn't her regular work.

After she agreed he asked, "You could be anyone from a secretary to"¦are you Katharine Graham?"

Graham simply replied, "Yes, I am."

4. The White House Couldn't Scare Her

It's safe to say the Nixon White House was no fan of Katharine Graham. In 1971 the Post published the Pentagon Papers, the controversial secret history of the Vietnam War prepared by the Pentagon. A federal court had already blocked the New York Times from publishing the papers, but Graham felt that the story was important "“ it showed that the government hadn't been entirely honest about the situation in Vietnam "“ and didn't threaten our national security.

The Nixon White House pushed hard for the Post to kill the story. It threatened the Washington Post Co.'s television licenses and spooked Graham's lawyers so badly that they advised her not to run the story. But she ignored their counsel.

Nixon may have applied the pressure, but Graham ended up getting the last laugh. She gave her newsroom a free hand to investigate the 1972 burglary at the Watergate Hotel, and Nixon eventually resigned the presidency as the result of the Post's dogged investigation of the break-in and ensuing cover-up.

5. She Was Really Tight With Warren Buffett

In 1973 business guru Warren Buffett bought a large block of Post stock, and he and Graham soon became good buddies. Although Graham was 59 years old and Buffett was a married man, a romance blossomed. Instead of being inconspicuous, the couple was fairly forthcoming about details of their relationship. Buffett spent so much time at Graham's Martha's Vineyard mansion that he kept clothes in the closet, and his wife, Susie, even wrote Graham a letter giving the publisher permission to date her husband.

Buffett eventually found a new love interest, Astrid Menks, in the late 1970s. Although Graham and Buffett's romance eventually fizzled, the pair remained business partners and chums.

If there's someone you'd like to see profiled in a future edition of '5 Things You Didn't Know About...,' leave us a comment. You can read the previous installments here.


5 Things You Didn't Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs, but there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.


Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.


Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.


If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.


While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams' mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.


Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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5 Things You Should Know About Robert Todd Lincoln
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Robert Todd Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln's oldest son and the only Lincoln child to survive into adulthood. While he didn't make quite the mark on history that his father did, Robert Lincoln had a pretty interesting life himself. Let's take a look at five things you might not know about him:

1. He Was on Ulysses S. Grant's Personal Staff

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Part of Abraham Lincoln's mystique lies in his humble roots as a self-made man who found education where he could. His eldest son didn't have to go through quite as many trials and tribulations to do some learning, though. Robert left Springfield, Illinois, to attend boarding school at New Hampshire's elite Phillips Exeter Academy when he was a young man, and he later graduated from Harvard during his father's presidency.

After completing his undergrad degree, Robert stuck around Cambridge to go to Harvard Law School, but that arrangement didn't last very long. After studying law for just a few months, Lincoln received a commission as a captain in the army. Lincoln's assignment put him on Ulysses S. Grant's personal staff, so he didn't see much fighting. He did get a nice view of history, though; Lincoln was present as part of Grant's junior staff at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

After the war ended, Lincoln moved to Chicago with his mother and brother and wrapped up his legal studies.

2. The Booth Family Did Him a Favor

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In 1863 or 1864, young Robert Lincoln was traveling by train from New York to Washington during a break from his studies at Harvard. He hopped off the train during a stop at Jersey City, only to find himself on an extremely crowded platform. To be polite, Lincoln stepped back to wait his turn to walk across the platform, his back pressed to one of the train's cars.

This situation probably seemed harmless enough until the train started moving, which whipped Lincoln around and dropped him into the space between the platform and train, an incredibly dangerous place to be.

Lincoln probably would have been dead meat if a stranger hadn't yanked him out of the hole by his collar. That stranger? None other than Edwin Booth, one of the most celebrated actors of the 19th century and brother of eventual Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln immediately recognized the famous thespian "“ this was sort of like if George Clooney pulled you from a burning car today "“ and thanked him effusively. The actor had no idea whose life he had saved until he received a letter commending him for his bravery in saving the President's son a few months later.

3. He Had a Strange Knack for Being Near Assassinations

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Lee's surrender wasn't the only history Lincoln ended up witnessing, although things got a bit grislier for him after Appomattox. As he arrived back in Washington in April 1865 Lincoln's parents invited him to go see Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater with them. The young officer was so exhausted after his journey that he begged off so he could get a good night's sleep. That night, of course, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln's father, and Robert Todd was with the celebrated president when he passed away the next morning.

By 1881, Lincoln's political lineage and prominence as a lawyer qualified him for a national office, and he became Secretary of War under the newly inaugurated James A. Garfield. That July, Lincoln was scheduled to travel to Elberon, New Jersey, by train with the President, but the trip never took off. Before Lincoln and Garfield's train could leave the station, Charles Guiteau shot the Garfield, who died of complications from the wound two months later.

Oddly, that wasn't all for Lincoln, though. Two decades passed without a presidential assassination, but Lincoln's strange luck reared its head again in 1901. Lincoln traveled to Buffalo at the invitation of President William McKinley to attend the Pan-American Exposition. Although he arrived a bit late to the even, Lincoln was on his way to meet McKinley when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot the president twice at close range.

Following these three bits of bad luck Lincoln refused to attend any presidential functions. He dryly noted that there was "a certain fatality about the presidential function when I am present."

4. He Realized His Mom Was a Little Nutty

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Mary Todd Lincoln is fairly widely renowned today for being mentally ill, but it wasn't quite such an open secret when she was still alive. Robert, however, realized that his mother needed psychiatric help so she didn't become a danger to herself or an embarrassment to her family, so he had her involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in 1875 following a hearing that declared her insane.

Mary Todd was none too pleased about this plan. She not only snuck letters to her lawyer to help her escape from the institution, she also wrote newspaper editors in an effort to convince the public of her sanity. Mary Todd's ploy worked; at a second sanity hearing in 1876 she was declared sane and released from the Batavia, Illinois, sanatorium to which she'd been confined. However, by this point she'd been publicly humiliated and never really patched up her relationship with Robert before her death in 1882.

5. He Made Some Serious Dough on the Railroads


Once he got his legal practice up and running, Lincoln found a particularly lucrative clientele in the booming railroad industry. He spent most of his career working as a corporate lawyer for various railroads and train-related companies; the only breaks were his four-year stint as Secretary of War under Garfield and successor Chester A. Arthur and a four-year hitch as a minister to Britain under President Benjamin Harrison.

One of Lincoln's major clients was the Pullman Palace Car Company, for which he served as general counsel. When founder George Pullman died in 1897, Lincoln became president of the company, and in 1911 he became chairman of the Pullman Company's board. His lofty position in one of the country's most lucrative companies made him a millionaire and enabled Lincoln to build a sprawling estate, Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont.


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