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Thomas, Helen Amelia

Helen Amelia Thomas, 1920–2013, American journalist, b. Winchester, Ky., grad Wayne State Univ. (B.A., 1942). The daughter of Lebanese immigrants, she was a pioneering woman journalist in an era dominated by men. She became famous for her lengthy career (nearly 70 years), her hard-nosed questioning of presidents (from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama), and her signature closing words at presidential news conferences, "Thank you, Mr. President." Thomas began (1942) in the newspaper business as a copy girl for the Washington Daily News. The following year she was hired by the United Press wire service (later United Press International; UPI). She joined the presidential news corps in 1961 and became a White House correspondent in 1970 and UPI's White House bureau chief in 1974, becoming the first woman with a major outlet to hold the bureau post. Thomas resigned from UPI in 2000 and was then hired as a columnist by the Hearst News Service. She retired in 2010 after controversy over her negative statements regarding Israel, but later worked for the weekly Falls Church News-Press. She wrote Dateline: White House (1974), Front Row at the White House (1999), Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President (2002), Listen Up, Mr. President (with C. Crawford, 2009), and other books.

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