Jim Graham, Ex-DC Councilman, Dies at 71

"He left our city a better place," the head of the D.C. Council said

Former D.C. Councilman Jim Graham has died after a brief illness. He was 71. 

The Council was informed that he died earlier Thursday, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Thursday afternoon.

Graham was a longtime activist for LGBT rights, and opened Whitman Walker Health in the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. He represented Washington's Ward 1 for four terms, starting in 1998.

"He left our city a better place," Mendelson said in a statement.

Former D.C. Council member and LGBT-rights pioneer Jim Graham died Thursday at age 71. News4's Tom Sherwood reports.

"On the Council, Jim worked especially hard on issues like homelessness, juvenile justice, diversity and public transportation. The District thanks him for his long public service and many accomplishments," he said. 

“Jim Graham embodied DC values," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

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

Graham told friends in April that he had the 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.

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.

Remembrances flooded in on social media.


The D.C. Council will announce plans for services for Graham.

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