Legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas died Saturday, July 20, at her apartment in Washington – two weeks shy of her 93rd birthday.
She became one of the best-known journalists in the White House press corp., covering eleven presidential administrations.
Freshly-graduated from Detroit’s Wayne University in 1942, Thomas headed to the nation’s capital where she landed a $17.50 per week job as a copy girl at the Washington Daily News. Her job description included fetching coffee and doughnuts for editors.
Helen’s first big break came after the 1960 presidential election when she was sent to Palm Beach, Florida to cover the vacation of newly-elected John F. Kennedy and his family.
In 1972 she covered Richard M. Nixon’s trip to China, and was later privy to secret details surrounding the Watergate scandal, when Martha Mitchell, wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, would phone her at night to vent about her frustrations.
Two years later Thomas was named the first female White House bureau chief for the UPI wire service. She left that post in 2000, and was promptly hired by the Hearst Corporation as an opinion columnist for their conglomerate of newspapers across the country, writing more openly about national affairs and the White House.
She joked, “I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter. Now I wake up and ask myself, ‘Who do I hate today?’”
Many female journalists hit Twitter to memorialize Thomas. Judy Woodruff called her a “trailblazer” and Andrea Mitchell claims Helen “made it possible for all of us who followed.”
Barack Obama tweeted, “Helen Thomas was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism.”
Thomas is preceded in death by her husband of 11-years, Douglas Cornell, a former chief White House correspondent for the AP, who died in 1971.