In Memoriam: William Graves


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has received word of the death June 12, 2004 of Honorary Member of the Corporation William P.E. Graves in Lititz, PA, of complications from a stroke suffered in 2001. He was 77.

Bill Graves was elected a Member of the Corporation in 1995 and an Honorary Member in 1997. He served on the Member Information and Education committee from 1998 to 2002, and most recently served on the Ships committee.   He was a Guest Associate from 1992 to 1996, and was a supporter of the Institution's Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship program

William Pierce Evans Graves was born December 27, 1926 in Washington, DC, attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA, and was graduated from the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey.   In 1937 his mother married Francis Sayres, a diplomat serving as US high commissioner to the Philippines in the early days of World War II. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces began to shell US bases in the Philippines. On Christmas Eve 1941 Bill Graves and his family were evacuated to Corregidor, where they stayed at Gen Douglas MacArthur's headquarters. After two months spent mostly in underground tunnels, the family escaped to Australia by submarine.

After his escape he served in the US Navy as a member of an amphibious unit stationed in the Pacific.   He received a B.A. degree in English and history from Harvard in 1950 and joined the US Foreign Service, spending four years at US consulates in Germany and Japan.   He worked briefly as a reporter for the Munroe News Service covering politics before joining the National Geographic Society, where his father had been an assistant editor prior to his death in 1932.   His 38-year career at the National Geographic Society began in 1956 with a position as a legend, or photo caption, writer.   He was promoted to staff writer in 1959, and was named senior assistant editor for expeditions, often referred to as "adventures editor" at the magazine, in 1978. He traveled extensively as a writer and editor for National Geographic magazine, visiting the seven continents and the North Pole on assignment.   He wrote the society's book Hawaii and contributed to five other books published by National Geographic Society.   He spoke German and Japanese, was a skilled woodworker, and made stained glass windows.

As editor of National Geographic magazine from 1990 to 1994, Bill Graves continued a strong tradition of photography but also improved the quality of the writing.   "Under Bill's editorship, the text caught up with the pictures," said Gilbert M. Grosvenor, chairman of the board and the fifth generation of his family to run National Geographic.

Both of us came in with the legacy of our fathers to uphold." Graves retired from National Geographic in December 1994 was succeeded by the current editor, William Allen.

After retirement he lived in Lancaster, PA, and Chilmark, MA. He suffered a severe stroke in 2001 and spent the past three years in a nursing home in Pennsylvania.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce Graves of Lancaster, PA; a son, William P. Graves of Pittsburgh, PA; a brother, Ralph A. Graves of New York and Chilmark, MA; a stepbrother, the Rev. Francis B. Sayre, Jr.; and three grandchildren.


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