William W. Graham, the heir to The Washington Post fortune, has committed suicide at age 69.
William died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Los Angeles home on Dec. 20, the Daily Mail reported. In 1963, his father, Philip Graham, also committed suicide.
William’s grandfather, Eugene Meyer, first purchased The Washington Post at a bankruptcy auction in 1933. Philip served as president and chief executive of The Post before killing himself at age 48 — also with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was battling manic depression at the time, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Post was then taken over by William’s mother, Katherine Graham, who turned the company into the media powerhouse it is known as today. Under her direction, The Post covered two of its biggest stories: the Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers.
Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep portrayed Katherine Graham in the Steven Spielberg film “The Post,” which premiered on Dec. 22 — two days after William committed suicide. The movie covers the 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the truth about the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.
Katherine served as the head of The Washington Post for more than 20 years. William’s brother, Donald Graham, succeeded as publisher in 1979, and sold the company to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2013.
William was a lawyer with Williams & Connolly firm in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s before moving to Los Angeles. He later became a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, teaching trial law.
William also founded investment firm Graham Partners. He ran the company for about 20 years before dissolving the business in 2001. He was reportedly involved in numerous philanthropic activities, though details on those activities have not been revealed.
William is survived by wife Sally Lasker Graham and his two children, Edward Graham and Alice Graham. His two brothers, Donald Graham and Stephen Graham, are also still alive. Katherine died in 2001.
Liz Hannah, one of the screenwriters for “The Post,” recently spoke of her admiration for Katherine during an interview with The Frame:
After reading her book for the first time six years ago, I sort of fell in love with her. There are at least a dozen different films that could have been made about her life. The thing that stuck out about her story for me was that this turning point in her life happened when she was in her mid-50s, where she had expected that she was going to play second fiddle her whole life. She wasn’t ever going to run the company, she wasn’t ever going to be the alpha in her family. That role was played by her father and then her husband. Then, because of a variety of circumstances, she found herself in that role.
That moment where you have been told your entire life to doubt yourself, you’ve been told you don’t have a voice, and now you are expected to not only have your voice, but be the defining voice of your company and your paper. That was just such an interesting thing for me to explore. It also happened to coincide with the story of the Post’s involvement in the Pentagon Papers.