Profile on former State Auditor Bob Graham released

News Release
Issued: April 24, 2014

OLYMPIA...The Secretary of State's Legacy Project this week has published on its web site a 20,000-word profile and oral history of Robert V. Graham, the seven-term Washington state auditor who died on April 16. The web site can be found here .

Graham died at his Olympia home four days after his 93rd birthday and just two weeks after his last interview with John C. Hughes, chief historian for The Legacy Project. During World II, Graham was a flight engineer with the Army Air Transport Command in the Pacific Theater. His life story—punctuated with remarkable twists of fate—is part of a series spotlighting Washington State's World War II veterans. Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

"Bob's brain was nimble almost to the end," Hughes says. "He was a remarkable blend of old-shoe gentleman and sophisticated public servant. His passing underscores the urgency of compiling these oral histories."

Secretary of State Kim Wyman says Hughes' profile on Graham is definitely worth reading.

"Bob Graham was one of the longest-serving statewide officials in Washington history, and he left his mark as a state auditor," Wyman said. "As usual, John has done an outstanding job of spotlighting Bob's noteworthy life and career in public service."

The grandson of Scottish immigrants, Graham grew up on a dairy farm at Copalis Crossing in Grays Harbor County. He was a standout student and athlete at Moclips High School and student body president at the fledgling Grays Harbor Junior College in Aberdeen. In 1941, Graham headed a team of student lobbyists from around the state who helped ensure passage of the first-ever state aid package for the two-year schools.

A Democrat, Graham nevertheless insisted that state auditor should be a nonpartisan office. When he succeeded his friend and mentor, Cliff Yelle, in 1965, Graham began a running feud with the Legislature over "performance audits" of state agencies. A fiscal audit focused only on whether appropriated funds were being spent in keeping with the law. The broader question, Graham said, "Is what kind of a job are they doing with the taxpayers' money?" When his office reported that lawmaker junkets to Europe and Puerto Rico had been reimbursed on a per-mile basis rather than actual cost, the battle was fully joined.

Graham retired in 1993. "During my years we brought the office into the modern era, and I put together a great team," he told Hughes. "We were hardnosed about the law but fair and honest. … That's the thing I'm most proud of. We also had fraud investigation courses. We received national awards for our accounting department. I always said that we were the ‘Largest CPA firm in the state.' The federal General Accounting Office said our agency was one of the top 10 government accounting offices in the United States."

Graham is survived by his wife of nearly 69 years, Lloydine, five children, 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. His funeral is set for April 25 in Olympia.