UPI White House Bureau Chief
First woman officer of the National Press Club. First woman president of the White House Correspondents Association. First woman member and president of the Gridiron Club. First lady of the White House Press Corps. Helen Thomas. In 1942, the tenacious and independent Ms. Thomas left her native Detroit for Washington D.C., to embark on a career that became her lifelong passion. She was 22. Ms. Thomas began writing radio news copy in 1943 for what would later be now as the United Press International. Day in, day out, she honed her craft until UPI assigned her to cover the Justice Department and many other federal agencies in 1956. Her promotion to the White House in 1960 was to cover Jackie Kennedy during the election campaign. Following the election, it is said that Ms. Thomas assigned herself as one of the UPI’s correspondents to the White House; she has remained at her post through eight presidential administrations. According to one veteran White House reporter, Ms. Thomas takes the “vacuum cleaner approach” to her beat, sweeping up every scrap of news and getting it on the UPI wire faster than anyone else. Regarded as a Washington institution, Ms. Thomas once said, “You’re only as good as your last story.” Helen Thomas will continue to file one story after the other; she will continue to call the end of presidential press conferences with her signature closing, “Thank you, Mr. President.” And she will continue her long line of firsts.