WASHINGTON, D.C. – A trailblazer for women journalists who covered every U.S. president since the Eisenhower administration has passed away.
The family of Michigan-raised Helen Thomas released a statement Saturday morning confirming the 92-year-old’s death.
Thomas was an American author, former news service reporter and columnist. She was the first female officer of the National Press Club.
For many, Thomas will best be remembered for her pointed questions during presidential news conferences as she fought to be a ‘Watchdog for Democracy’, the title of one of many books she wrote.
In West Michigan, Thomas will remembered to many as ‘Aunt Helen’, the aunt of former WOOD TV news anchor Suzanne Geha. Thomas made many visits to the Grand Rapids area to visit family and to talk to budding journalists about what it was like to be front and center for decades in the White House media briefing rooms. Her stories fascinated the small groups of people in which she spoke, telling stories about what it was like to cover everything from the young Kennedy family to war.
Thomas retired in 2010 following negative reaction to controversial comments she had made during an interview about Israel, Jews, and Palestine.
The family of Thomas released the following statement:
It is with saddened hearts that we inform you of the passing of our sister and aunt, Helen Thomas. Surrounded by family and friends, she died peacefully in her Washington, D.C. home Saturday morning, July 20, 2013.
Helen Thomas devoted her nearly 70-year career in journalism to the pursuit of the public’s right to know. She was a champion of the First Amendment fervently advocating for the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. For years, she proudly occupied her front row seat in the Press Briefing Room at the White House, considering it the people’s chair in the people’s house. She always acknowledged the privilege of being the eyes and ears of the public, and she boldly and unabashedly asked the hard questions to hold our leaders accountable.
Helen Thomas began her career in the 1940s as a young woman working in a man’s business overcoming many institutional barriers that kept women from equal access. Through her tenacity, integrity, and willingness to follow-up any lead and work any hour of the day or night, she reached the pinnacle of her profession and paved the way for the next generations of women to follow.
Helen will be greatly missed by her three surviving sisters and her many nieces and nephews, cousins, and dear friends. We will always remember her for the passionate way she sought the truth, for her overwhelming love and generosity, and for her unfaltering faith in mankind.
Helen Thomas will be brought back home to Detroit, the beloved city of her youth, where she will be buried.