Born in Tyler July 8, 1910, Sarah Newcomb McClendon was the first woman admitted to the White House Press Corps and its longest-serving member during her career of six decades.
McClendon reported on the administrations of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt beginning in 1944 through George W. Bush in 2003. At its height, her column was syndicated by as many as 400 newspapers.
Known for her long questions and lecturing-the-president comments, she became the longest-serving White House reporter, and in her later years, despite interviewing from the constraints of a wheelchair, maintained a style so brash that a colleague once described her as “giving rudeness a bad name.”
Though mocked in the ranks of an almost all-male press corps in her early days for her brash questions and blunt style, McClendon is now honored as a pioneer, a model for female journalists, and an advocate for veterans’ affairs.
Michael D. McCurry, press secretary to President Bill Clinton once mused, “Many a president thought he could change the subject by calling on Sarah and lived to regret it.”
McClendon was the youngest of nine children of Annie and Sidney McClendon raised in the Bonner-Whitaker-McClendon House. The house is now a museum, a Tyler Historic Landmark, a Texas Historic Landmark, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
She worked in small Texas newspapers and served as a public relations lieutenant in the Women’s Corps in World War II. Moving to the Washington bureau of The Philadelphia Daily News in 1944 before starting her own news service two years later, she was a single working mother at a time when that was rare.
She wrote two memoirs, My Eight Presidents in 1977 and Mr. President, Mr President! My 50 Years of Covering the White House in 1996.
McClendon died January 8, 2003, at 92.