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Helen Thomas Inspired Generation of Journalists

Natasha Dado, Special to The Informer from New America Media | 8/7/2013, 3 p.m.
Helen Thomas (Courtesy photo)

In response to some of her awards being pulled, several new ones were created in her name from groups, such as the Lebanese American Heritage Club and the National Arab American Journalists Association.

Proud of her Arab roots

“She was somebody who made you feel proud to be Arab American. She was extremely confident in who she was,” Jaafar said.

“Helen’s life is a remarkable American success story; a rich fulfillment of the American Dream,” says Devon Akmon, Arab American National Museum Director.

“Her immigrant parents took the risk, sought the opportunities for themselves and their children, and raised Helen to be the independent, tireless achiever she was – a woman who did not allow her gender, ethnic heritage and later, her age, to limit her goals in any way.”

Thomas was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 1993.

President Obama also commented on Thomas’ passing, saying, “What made Thomas the ‘Dean of the White House Press Corps’ was not just the length of her tenure, but her fierce belief that our democracy works best when we ask tough questions and hold our leaders to account.”

Thomas was married to Douglas Cornell, who was a White House reporter for the Associated Press and passed away in 1982. She graduated from WSU in 1942 and is among its most distinguished alumni.

Thomas will be greatly missed by her three surviving sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Thomas’ body will be brought back to Detroit, where she will be buried. Sources say that the service is expected to take place in August, and a memorial service will be held in Washington D.C. this October.

When asked what Thomas’ advice to young and aspiring journalists would be, Geha responded, “Don’t be afraid. Have courage. You’re not out to win a popularity contest. You are there on the public’s behalf to keep them informed."

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