WASHINGTON (AP) - Helen Thomas, a pioneer for women in journalism and an irrepressible White House correspondent, has died. She was 92.
A friend, Muriel Dobbin, says Thomas died at her apartment in Washington on Saturday morning. Dobbin says Thomas has been ill for a long time, had been in and out of the hospital, and had come home Thursday.
Thomas made her name as a bulldog for United Press International in the great wire-service rivalries of old. She used her seat in the front row of history to grill nine presidents - often to their discomfort and was not shy about sharing her opinions.
She was persistent to the point of badgering; one White House press secretary described her questioning as "torture" - and he was one of her fans.
Thomas' niece, Suzanne Geha released this statement earlier today:
"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. "