Thomas was a White House correspondent for 49 years, first for United Press International, then for Hearst newspapers. In those five decades, Thomas, whose questions invariably got straight to the point, was the first woman to become president of the White House Correspondents Association and the first woman to join the Gridiron Club, later becoming its president.
Though her career ended in 2010 amid controversy regarding a statement she made about Israel—she said Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine,” though she later apologized—Thomas was an inspiration to many, particularly women, for whom she broke down career barriers, and not only in journalism.
Some reactions to Saturday’s news:
“Helen Thomas was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism.” —President Obama
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 20, 2013
Sad to hear about the passing of Helen Thomas – she was a grand lady & a one in a million reporter
— Larry King (@kingsthings) July 20, 2013