In Memoriam: Eudora Welty and Katharine Graham
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RAY SUAREZ: Now, remembering two women of distinction: Katharine Graham of the Washington Post, and author Eudora Welty. Miss Welty died today in Jackson, Mississippi, the town she had lived in and written about most of her life. She was also an accomplished photographer. Her Depression-era photographs for the Works Progress Administration have been collected in several books. She talked to Roger Mudd about one of them in 1989.
ROGER MUDD: So, Eudora, do you remember this woman on the cover?
EUDORA WELTY: Absolutely.
ROGER MUDD: What do you remember about her?
EUDORA WELTY: Well, I remember I loved that pose, which… I was walking down the street with a camera one morning, and it was Saturday. She was not working. You know, I thought I’d take a picture of people on their days off.
ROGER MUDD: Mm-hmm.
EUDORA WELTY: And we said, “good morning.” And I said, “do you mind just staying just the way you are and let me take a picture?” She says it’s all right with her.
ROGER MUDD: And this one, Eudora, is called “a woman of the ’30s.” A lot of pride in that face, isn’t there?
EUDORA WELTY: Absolutely. It’s indomitable. You know, this utter poverty… And, and so proud and standing. That’s my favorite one I think of any I ever took.
ROGER MUDD: Is that right?
EUDORA WELTY: It’s so marvelously impressive to me, and I’ll never forget it. It was a bitter cold day, and I suppose all she had was that sweater.
ROGER MUDD: Eudora, tell me about the connection between photography and fiction.
EUDORA WELTY: I really don’t think there’s too much direct connection. I suppose it all depends on the taker of the picture and the writer of the fiction, and it must differ from individual to individual, but in my case, I’m a professional writer, but an amateur photographer, and I think the same thing probably led me into both– a love of observation and traveling around. I know that I didn’t get things from the pictures to make me write, but I think lots of times I took pictures of the things that had meant something to me which I used in a story. So both of them came into my brain, but one didn’t come from the other.
ROGER MUDD: Are there qualities that fiction and photography share?
EUDORA WELTY: Yes, I think so, don’t you? But I don’t think they are… I don’t think they are on the same level in your mind somehow. I suppose it’s the same attitude makes you want to take a photograph that makes you write stories; that is, if you’re interested in your fellow human beings and what they’re doing and where they live and the details– I love physical details– and so that observation could make you do either, I suppose. But fiction is so much, is an internal process, and photography is not. I don’t make up what I take; it’s there.
ROGER MUDD: And this one, Eudora, a mule-face woman. It’s a picture of the poster.
EUDORA WELTY: Yeah.
ROGER MUDD: But not of the woman.
EUDORA WELTY: No, not of the woman.
ROGER MUDD: Why, why not?
EUDORA WELTY: It’s the poster I was interested in. I love that… I love primitive art. It came with all the fairs and everything. I took lots of pictures of the posters because they were somebody’s dream, you know, of what… This was their idea of a mule-faced woman who as you see is wearing an evening dress and had pretty legs and was looking very coyly at somebody. No, I wasn’t interested in…
ROGER MUDD: In the woman herself.
EUDORA WELTY: …What was in the tent. I didn’t want…
ROGER MUDD: Did you go into the tent?
EUDORA WELTY: No.
ROGER MUDD: Why, Eudora?
EUDORA WELTY: I didn’t want to see the real mule-face woman. ( Laughter ) I dreaded the real mule-face woman.
RAY SUAREZ: Eudora Welty was 92 years old. We will examine her life and her work in more detail tomorrow night.
FINALLY – IN MEMORIAM
RAY SUAREZ: And finally, Katharine Graham. Margaret Warner has that story.
MARGARET WARNER: Close to 4,000 people, the powerful and the not-so powerful, gathered at the National Cathedral in Washington today for the funeral of Katharine Graham. The famed publisher of the Washington Post died last week at the age of 84. Friends and family members recalled the remarkable way she assumed leadership of the paper after her husband committed suicide in 1963. First to speak was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
HENRY KISSINGER: After a great personal tragedy, Kay took over the Washington Post, and with no previous experience and not a little diffidence, built it into one of the world’s most respected newspapers. She fiercely defended its freedom of expression and was a seminal figure in the battles to submit even the highest officials to ethical and judicial norms.
MARGARET WARNER: Historian Arthur Schlesinger spoke of the importance of Graham standing by her reporters and editors while they investigated the Watergate scandal in the early ’70s.
ARTHUR SCHLESINGER: The Post’s hard-hitting reporters aided by the still- mysterious deep throat, who may very well be among us this morning… (Laughter )…relentlessly uncovered the illegal actions of a panicky White House. Katherine Graham ignored the vulgar threats of an Attorney General of the United States, and the Post proceeded to build the case that led inexorably to a first in American history, the resignation of a President.
MARGARET WARNER: Graham’s longtime colleague and friend, former Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, recalled another showdown, in 1973, when the Post’s lawyers fought Vice President Spiro Agnew’s attempt to subpoena a reporter’s notes about corruption charges against him.
BENJAMIN BRADLEE: We had refused to surrender these notes. “Reporters don’t own their own notes,” Joe Califano told the district court — “the owner of the paper own them, and let’s see if they dare throw Katherine Graham in jail.” She was delighted at the prospect. Maybe not all of you understand exactly what it takes to make q great newspaper. It takes a great owner, period– an owner who commits herself with passion and the highest standards and principles to a simple search for the truth, with fervor, not favor; with fairness and courage. Great owners help reporters and editors shine a bright light on the darkest corners of society. This is what Kay Graham brought to the table, plus so much more, like a love for news, a love for answers, and a love for a piece of the action.
MARGARET WARNER: Katherine graham’s son, Donald, who succeeded her as publisher of the Post, spoke of her love for her job.
DONALD GRAHAM: She loved scoops. Her only question was: Are you sure you’re right? She favored fairness, daring, digging, honesty, nonpartisanship. She loved a good story, and burst with pride at the people who wrote them and who did any other key job well. ( Cello playing )
MARGARET WARNER: Another friend, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, celebrated Graham by performing a selection from Bach. (Cello playing) The final words came from ordained Episcopal minister John Danforth, a former Republican Senator from Missouri, who gave the homily.
REV. JOHN DANFORTH: She was the opposite of what we see so often: People elbowing their way to the front. In Washington, especially, a lot of people strut. Kay did not strut instead of grabbing power for herself, Kay empowered others at the Post, for sure, by letting the editors make decisions. And she empowered the nation. -If knowledge is power, giving the public knowledge is giving the public power. The Senate Intelligence Committee hears secret testimony in a bubble room with steel doors. I can’t remember ever hearing anything in that room that I hadn’t first read in the Post. The Post opens the doors of Washington to the American people, even the steel doors. And that gives enormous power to the public to control government; it’s the great legacy of Kay Graham.
MARGARET WARNER: Katherine Graham was buried later today in a cemetery across from her house in Georgetown.