Former councilor Graham dies at 71
Fought for HIV advocacy
Jim Graham, the second openly gay member of the D.C. Council who represented Ward 1 and advocated for gay rights, died Sunday of intestinal infection complications at George Washington University Hospital. He was 71.
The council announced his death Thursday via a tweet, and said information about services will be released to the public as it becomes known.
“Our hearts go out to all who, like us, knew & loved him,” read a subsequent posting from the council.
Born in Scotland and raised in the United States, Mr. Graham received degrees from Michigan State, University of Michigan Law School and Georgetown University Law School. He was first elected to the D.C. Council in 1998 and served four terms as a Ward 1 Democrat.
According to a former colleague, council member Jack Evans of Ward 2, Mr. Graham was “always on the forefront of gay rights and those in need.”
He first joined the District’s WhitmanWalker Clinic in 1979, and his passion to help those afflicted with HIV led him to take charge of the struggling clinic as executive director in 1984, ensuring that Washingtonians afflicted with the disease received proper care.
“Jim’s deep commitment to serving and helping people cannot be overstated. Before being elected to the council, Jim had already made his mark as a leader,” said Vincent Gray, a fellow Democratic council member and former mayor.
His direction of Whitman-Walker helped create a thriving environment at the clinic. When he left the facility in 1999 to serve on the council, it boasted 270 full-time employees and 1,200 working volunteers. It had grown to the point that satellite clinics popped up throughout the region.
On Thursday, council Chairman Phil Mendelson said that during Mr. Graham’s tenure in the legislature, his work in the LGBT community was combined with many other community efforts.
“Jim worked especially hard on issues like homelessness, juvenile justice, diversity and public transportation,” said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat.
Brianne Nadeau succeeded Mr. Graham as the Ward 1 representative on the council in 2015. She said that despite her policy differences with Mr. Graham, she never doubted his love for his constituency.
“As a councilmember, he leaves a legacy of fierce advocacy on behalf of District residents,” Ms. Nadeau said.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Mr. Graham’s legacy will live on — even in her own efforts for equality.
“Today, as I fight to include more Washingtonians in the District’s prosperity, I do so on the shoulders of leaders like Jim who fought to prove that moving D.C. forward means leaving no residents behind,” Miss Bowser said Thursday.