Politics blog

Former 7-term state auditor Bob Graham dies at 93

OlympianApril 17, 2014 

This post is updated.

Robert V. “Bob” Graham, a former seven-term Washington state auditor and Democrat, died Wednesday after a period of declining health. He was receiving hospice care and had turned 93 on Saturday, celebrating the occasion at the Olympia home he had lived in for half a century, family members said.

“He’s had several health problems,” Lloydine Graham, his wife of 68 years, said Thursday. “I was really pleased that all five of our kids were with him yesterday.’’

Graham served as elected state auditor from 1965 to 1993 and had worked in the office for 17 years before that under auditor Cliff Yelle, who served eight terms.

Former state deputy auditor Linda Long served under both Graham and his successor, Democrat Brian Sonntag. She said Graham had a stroke two years ago and gathered a few colleagues together last summer for a private reunion.

“Not a person was not made better as a result of working with Bob Graham,’’ Long said.

She said started at the bottom in the agency but Graham promoted her after recruiting her in 1982 to conduct the state’s first statewide audit of agencies, which replaced an agency-by-agency approach.

An in-house history of the state Auditor’s Office said the agency’s transition to electronic and computer-aided audit work began during Graham’s tenure. The state whistle blower program also began, and Graham was one of the first to use performance audits, which rankled enough legislators that his authority to conduct them was taken away by the Legislature in 1971 - until a citizen initiative passed in 2005 restored it.

When Graham left the agency in 1993 it was rated as “one of the top 10 government accounting offices in the country” by the then-U.S. General Accounting Office, the book said.

Graham also was known briefly in the early 1990s as the highest paid state employee as a result of collecting both his salary and pension after he turned 70.

AuditorTroy Kelley issued a statement that said, in part:

“We are saddened by the news that Robert “Bob” Graham, former Washington State Auditor, passed away Wednesday. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Graham’s family and we join all Washington citizens in gratitude and appreciation for his service to his state and his country.”
Graham was born in Pacific, King County. He served in the Army during World War II and started his state-government career at the budget division in the Department of Labor and Industries, according to the Legacy Project, located in the Office of the Secretary of State.

John Hughes, chief author for the state’s oral history program, completed a history of Graham about two weeks ago.

“His mind was nimble until almost the end,” Hughes said in a synopsis. “During World War II, Bob was a flight engineer with the Army Air Transport Service, carrying cargo into the South Pacific. His oral history is part of a series we’re doing leading up to the 70th anniversary in 2015 of the war’s end. His passing underscores the urgency of capturing these ‘Greatest Generation’ stories before it’s too late.”

Graham is survived by his wife, five children - daughter Susan Cahill and sons Randall, Paul, Jim and Richard Graham.

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