Jim Graham's Body Lying in Repose at DC City Hall - NBC4 Washington
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Jim Graham's Body Lying in Repose at DC City Hall

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    NEWSLETTERS

    xx (Published Friday, June 23, 2017)

    The body of late former D.C. Council Member Jim Graham is lying in repose at the John A. Wilson Building, Washington's city hall. 

    Graham died June 11 at age 71. A Democrat, he served on the council from 1999 to 2015 and was one of two openly gay members in the history of the city legislature. 

    His white casket was draped with a rainbow flag. Alongside the casket was an American flag and a photo of Graham smiling, wearing one of his signature bowties. 


    Before entering politics, Graham led Washington's largest gay men's health clinic during the height of the AIDS crisis. 

    Mourners were encouraged to wear bow ties in Graham's memory.

    To many D.C. residents, Graham was the politician who wore the ties and could be seen driving his Volkswagen Beetle convertible all over town.

    Remembrances flooded in from local politicians and social media users after Graham died Thursday following a brief illness.

    "He left our city a better place," D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

    Graham told friends in April that he had a life-threatening bacterial infection Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff.

    He was battling that infection and died of "chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder," his partner, Christopher Watkins, told The Washington Post.

    Still, his death was a shock, Ward 2 Councilman and longtime friend Jack Evans said.

    "Jim was a real advocate for people who were in need. That's the best way to describe it," Evans said.

    Don Blanchon, the executive director of Whitman Walker Health, called Graham a legend.

    "I always think of Jim as the father of this place. He's the person who put us on the map. He led this place for nearly 17 years during the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic," he said. 

    Graham even enlisted actress Elizabeth Taylor in the local fight against the disease. One of the establishment's facility's bears her name.

    "I knew Jim from the non-profit world and what an enormous contribution he made to tackle the scourge of HIV and AIDS in the city," said former D.C. mayor Vincent Gray. "People have to recognize he was not just a pioneer, he was a leader on that issue."

    The former councilman believed everyone can help create change, Blanchon said.

    "He believed that all politics were local. He believed that people had the ability to change things locally," he said.

    "He was genuinely concerned about what the people need and what was best for Ward 1," said Lashawn Oliver, a resident of Ward 1.

    Georgia Harris was a receptionist in Graham's office. How she got that position typified how Graham defined constituent service. She calls him a mentor.

    "He gave me a job," Harris said. "I was homeless and came in to get my home back and my children back,[and] he came to meet my family."

    A viewing and a religious service is scheduled for Saturday at All Souls Unitarian Church (1500 Harvard St. NW). The viewing will begin at 10 a.m., followed by religious service at noon.

    A repast will immediately follow the service in the church's multi-purpose room. Again, bow ties are encouraged, the Council said.

    Flowers and cards may be sent to Bacon Funeral Home (3447 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20010), the Council said.