Preston McGraw Obit -- The Dallas Morning News



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By JOE SIMNACHER/The Dallas Morning News

jsimnacher@dallasnews.com

Preston McGraw lived and breathed news for his 42 years with United Press International. And he took a place in history in November 1963, when he was the first to volunteer to be a pallbearer for Lee Harvey Oswald.

Mr. McGraw, 94, died May 26 of complications of kidney failure at Lake Forest Good Samaritan Village in Denton. He was entombed at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.

"He loved the news business, he just loved it," said his daughter, Susan McGraw of Denton County. "He loved his job more than anything. He loved the people and the excitement."

In November 1963, Mr. McGraw covered President John F. Kennedy's arrival and speech in Fort Worth. As the motorcade traveled through downtown Dallas on that Friday, Mr. McGraw was waiting at the Trade Mart to cover the president's address.

His coverage of the shooting included the immediate aftermath at Parkland hospital. He was at Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park in Fort Worth to cover Oswald's burial.

Oswald's graveside service was attended by federal agents, police, reporters and five family members, said Mike Cochran, then a reporter for The Associated Press.

"They had to recruit pallbearers, and they asked me -- I was with the AP -- and I said not only no, but hell no," Mr. Cochran said. "An instant later Preston leans over and says, 'I'll be a pallbearer.'"

Not wanting to get beat by the UPI reporter, Mr. Cochran reconsidered and agreed to help.

Mr. McGraw had interviewed Marina Oswald and met her children, Susan McGraw said.

"He said they were standing there so forlorn," Ms. McGraw said. "She didn't speak a lot of English and didn't really understand a lot of what was going on.

"He felt sorry for her, because there was no one there to support her, or help her."

The McGraw-Cochran rivalry was nothing new to the friends.

"McGraw had made a career of kicking my butt," Mr. Cochran said. "He was one of those guys you could compete with all day long -- and go for the jugular -- and then that evening share a beer and laugh."

Mr. McGraw was a good writer and an excellent reporter, Mr. Cochran said.

Mr. McGraw was born in Centreville, Miss., where his father was a carpenter.

In his childhood, Mr. McGraw worked in the cotton fields. He left home when he was 18 to attend Louisiana State University on a scholarship. He quickly learned about news gathering as a part-time reporter for The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate.

In 1935, he found himself involved in his first big story, covering the shooting death of U.S. Sen. Huey Long, Louisiana's former populist governor.

In 1938, he joined United Press news service, which became United Press International, in New Orleans.

In 1939, Mr. McGraw was assigned to the UP bureau in Kansas City.

Mr. McGraw was drafted into the Army to serve in World War II, but was soon reassigned to the Army News Service. He was later transferred to work for Stars and Stripes in Europe.

After the war, he rejoined UP in New York and was later transferred back to New Orleans. In 1952, he was sent to Dallas, where he ended his career.

His wife, Marjorie McGraw, died in 2000.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. McGraw is survived by a son, John McGraw of Collin County, and three grandchildren.

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