Great American Spotlight: Helen Thomas


Helen Amelia Thomas was an American author, news service reporter, and White House Press Corps opinion columnist. She broke barriers when she became the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, and the officer of the National Press Club. Born in Winchester, Kentucky to Lebanese immigrants, Thomas was one of nine children. She was mainly raised in Detroit, Michigan where her father operated a grocery store.

Thomas began covering the White House for United Press International when John F. Kennedy became president in 1961 and was a fixture there until her retirement in 2010. She covered 10 presidents over nearly half a century, and became a legend in the industry.

She was a fixture at White House news conferences, sitting front and center late in her career, where she frequently exasperated government spokesmen with her pointed questions.

She was considered the dean of the White House press corps because she was the longest-serving White House journalist.

Although her career came to an end under a cloud of controversy over her advocacy for Palestinian rights, Thomas was a pioneering journalist who added more than her share of cracks to the glass ceiling. Her work was extraordinary. She brought intensity, a lively spirit, and most importantly a commitment to the role of strong press in a healthy democracy.


Thomas is buried in Detroit, Michigan.