Helen Thomas Fast Facts

Here’s an in-depth look at the life of legendary White House reporter Helen Thomas.

Birth date: August 4, 1920

Death date: July 20, 2013

Birth place: Winchester, Kentucky

Birth name: Helen Amelia Thomas

Father: George Thomas, a grocer

Mother: Mary Thomas, a homemaker

Marriage: Douglas B. Cornell (1971-1982, his death)

Education: Wayne University, B.A., 1942

Other Facts:
Seventh of nine children. Her parents were immigrants from what is now Lebanon.

First female president of the White House Correspondents Association, first female officer of the National Press Club and first chief White House correspondent for UPI.

Covered every president from John F. Kennedy through Barack Obama.

Often called “The First Lady of the Press.”

1942 - Copy girl at Washington Daily News.

1943-1974 - Reporter for the wire service United Press (UP) and after the 1958 merger with International News Service, United Press International (UPI). She specialized in local, female-oriented stories.

1955 - Is assigned to report on the US Department of Justice. Her beat later expands to include other government agencies such as Department of Health and Capitol Hill.

1959-1960 - President of the Women’s National Press Club.

1960 - Begins covering president-elect John F. Kennedy and his family. Once Kennedy takes office, begins covering the White House, including daily press briefings and presidential press conferences.

April 1962 - Convinces President Kennedy to boycott the three annual dinners for White House correspondents and photographers if women could not attend. The president suggests all dinners be combined into one and that female correspondents be allowed to attend. The White House correspondents and photographers accepted the suggestion; the radio and television correspondents did not.

1970 - Is named UPI’s chief White House correspondent, the first woman for any of the wire services to reach that position.

January 1972 - The only female print journalist to accompany President Nixon on his historic trip to China during the era of Communism.

1974-2000 - Is named head of UPI’s White House Bureau, the first woman for any of the wire services to reach that position.

1975 - Becomes the first woman admitted to the Washington Press Corps club, called the Gridiron Club. She later becomes its president.

1975-1976 - Serves as the first female president of the White House Correspondents Association.

2000 - Receives the first Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Society of Professional Journalists

May 16, 2000 - Resigns from UPI after it is bought by News World Communications.

July 2000 - Is hired by the Hearst Corporation to write columns.

2002 - Is awarded a lifetime award with the National Newspaper Association

February 7, 2007 - Receives the lifetime achievement award from the Washington Press Club Foundation.

June 7, 2010 - Resigns her position at Hearst Newspapers after controversial comments made on May 27, 2010 regarding Jews in Palestine and that they should leave are brought to light. Thomas releases an apology.

December 2, 2010 - During a speech at an Arab-American conference in Dearborn, Michigan, where she defends the position that caused her retirement, she makes the statement, “Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by the Zionists,” and receives a standing ovation.

January 14, 2011 - Society of Professional Journalists announces it will no longer offer the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award. The removal of the award is prompted by her December 2010 remarks.

January 2011-February 2012 - Writes a column for the Falls Church News-Press.

April 1, 2012 - Hanan Ashrawi presents Thomas with a medal on behalf of PLO president Mahmoud Abbas in recognition of her defense of the Palestinian cause.

July 20, 2013 - Thomas dies after a long illness.