Biography

Sarah Newcomb McClendon was born on July 10, 1910, in Tyler, Texas. After graduating from Tyler Junior College and then the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism, she worked for several newspapers, including the Tyler Courier-Times, Tyler Morning Telegraph and the Beaumont Enterprise. In 1938, she worked for a year as a foreign correspondent in the newly formed Republic of Ireland.

At the start of the Second World War, McClendon joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and attended Officer Candidate School. After OCS training, the army commissioned her as a First Lieutenant and stationed her in the Army Surgeon General's office and at the Pentagon, where she worked as a public relations officer. During this time, she met and was briefly married to John Thomas O'Brien, who fathered McClendon's only child, Sally, in 1944. Sarah McClendon was the first army officer to give birth at a military hospital.

McClendon left the army with an honorable discharge shortly after the birth of her daughter and, as a single mother, began work as a Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Daily News. She covered the White House, giving her the distinction of being the first woman in the White House press corps. After World War II, she--like millions of women across America--lost this wartime job to a returning soldier. In response, she created the McClendon News Service which supplied stories from Washington and the White House to newspapers across the country as well as to the Irish Independent. Newspapers in East Texas actively traded on her roots in the Piney Woods, dubbing her an "East Texan in Washington." Recognizing the appeal of a local voice to help readers understand and contextualize Washington events, the El Paso Times ran her column under the title "A West Texan in Washington."

With a reputation for a shrewd and sometimes acerbic manner, McClendon questioned and challenged eleven United States presidents for more than half a century. Her autobiographies, My Eight Presidents and Mr. President, Mr. President! My 50 Years of Covering the White House, and her papers at the University Archives and Department of Special Collections at The University of Texas at Tyler detail her time as a journalist at the White House and describe her extensive knowledge of politics and the socio-political issues of interest to Americans during the latter half of the 20th Century. Sarah McClendon died on January 8, 2003.