This newspaper's editorial said it well yesterday: Jackson Gramham, a retired major general in the army corps of engineers and the first general manager and chief builder of our metro transit system who died on Saturday, used the force of his personality -- including his "gracious arrogance" -- to push the project to reality.
It's hard to add to that. But I must. I covered the Metro system over most of Graham's 10-year regime and had a generally amiable first-name, but often tense adversarial, relationship with him: the odd couple of Jacks, an ex-sergeant and an ex-general having at it, each with his own idea of the public weal.
In all that time, the episode I recall best was a Sunday morning when I joined him on a two-man tour of the subway diggings. From his home in South Arlington (rented from White House consumer assistant Esther Peterson) we went to half a dozen station sites. Graham had a passkey that got us through the gates, and with our hard hats on, we scampered up and down ladders and eyeballed newly poured concrete. Every once in a while, Graham would whip out his notebook and note something needing correction.
Graham's strong suits were construction and dealing with the federal politicians, a skill he had learned in the engineers. Too often he displayed disdain, at least in private, for the views of some of the politically chosen board members who were his bosses.
His greatest strength at Metro can be seen in the marvelous subway that is his monument. His greatest weakness was an inability to delegate authority, save to a few former engineers' construction officials. Because, after Metro took over the regional bus system, Graham would not choose and give power to a single director of transit operations, Metro never came meaningfully to grips with running and reorganizing bus service. The legacy even today is a bus system less well structured and efficient than it should be.
Graham, in Army style, called Metro's headquarters on Sixth Street the OCCB -- the Operations Control Center Building. A modest suggestion: Metro might consider renaming it officially the Jackson Graham Metro Headquarters, complete with a plaque.