News & Politics

Hundreds of Washington Post Staffers Say Farewell to Donald Graham With Laughter and Tears

Ben Bradlee gave the most emotional remarks.

Donald Graham takes Ben Bradlee's hand at emotional farewell party as the Post hands over control to new owner Jeff Bezos (left). What Post staffers presented to Graham; it will be kept at the Post building (right). Photographs by Brian Noyes.

Since the
Washington Post was sold to founder
Jeff Bezos there has been a process of letting go—the latest step being a private farewell gathering
held last night for Post Company chairman and CEO
Donald Graham in a room on the ground floor of the Post’s 15th Street, Northwest, building where
the presses once stood.

Among the current and former
Post employees in attendance was
Brian Noyes, a former art director for the
Post who now owns and operates the Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Virginia. Here’s his
report, sent to
Washingtonian in an e-mail:

“The RSVPs added up to 643, but many, many more faces from the past who weren’t on
the list were there to hear a reporter from each decade of Don’s tenure stand up to
make remarks about those ten years and to offer a toast along with all of us. Finally
Don was introduced but, from stage left,
John Harris [a former
Post reporter, now editor in chief of Politico] appeared dressed in Don’s actual sport
coat (obtained from Don’s wife) and sweater and did a spot-on impersonation of Don—and
the real Don couldn’t stop laughing.

“Finally big Don got up, and in a moving conversation from the heart talked about
his life there, moving from Vietnam to a DC cop street beat to a reporter position
on the sports desk.

“At one point Don pointed out ‘the big guy in the front row,’ who was, of course,

Ben Bradlee. Ben stood up and started waving his arms in the air, Rocky-style, to huge applause—it
was the first we’ve seen of Ben in a long while. Later Don mentioned him again, asked
him to stand up, and Ben—now with a microphone in his hand—started speaking [about]
how those were his happiest days and then broke down after getting out those words,
and we were all crying.

“It was one hell of a happy get-together for everyone who had worked at the
Post over the years, knowing that that room held some huge legends working together in
a way that won’t ever be duplicated*. I was standing near Ben as the speeches were
over, and I shadowed him for a while just taking in the sweet, happy, reunions as
former staffers quickly approached him—and his deep, barking voice was animated and
magical, and we ate it up like ice cream.”

Graham was presented with a plaque that will go in a Post elevator. It reads: “On
this elevator Don Graham greeted Post employees by name 806,132 times from 1972 to
2013.” We don’t know who did the math, but we’ll go with it.

*Here’s the RSVP list, if you want to look for some familiar names in
Washington Post history.