Sarah McClendon

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Sarah Newcomb McClendon
Sarah McClendon and Bill Clinton.jpg
Born (1910-07-08)July 8, 1910
Tyler, Texas, United States
Status widowed (prior to her death)
Died January 8, 2003(2003-01-08) (aged 92)
Occupation journalist
Spouse(s) John Thomas O'Brien (deceased)
Children Sally Newcomb MacDonald

Sarah Newcomb McClendon (July 8, 1910 – January 8, 2003) was a long-time White House reporter who covered presidential politics for a half-century. McClendon founded her own free-lance news service as a single mother in the post-World War II era, and became known as a model for women in the press and as a vocal advocate of various causes, particularly those of United States military veterans. McClendon was best known, however, for her questions at United States Presidential press conferences, which often ranged from aggressive to brash or blunt.


Early life[edit]

The youngest of nine children, McClendon was born July 8, 1910 and reared in Tyler, Texas. McClendon's birthplace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Smith County,[1] is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark[2] and a Tyler Historical Landmark.[3]

McClendon graduated from Tyler Junior College in 1928, and from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism in 1931.[4][5]

After graduation, McClendon worked for the Tyler Courier-Times, the Tyler Morning Telegraph where she covered the New London Schoolhouse explosion and the Beaumont Enterprise.[4] As a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise, McClendon wrote a series of articles criticizing the Women's Army Auxililiary Corps -- the very branch of the service in which she would soon enlist.[6]

Military career[edit]

With America's entry into World War II, McClendon volunteered to serve in the United States Army. After learning that she did not have the academic qualifications to join military intelligence, McClendon enlisted in the Women's Army Auxililiary Corps, and reported for duty in September, 1942. McClendon initially served in the WAAC's public relations department, then attended Officer Candidate School, was promoted to Lieutenant and eventually was assigned the Army Surgeon General's office as a public relations officer.,[4][6]

While in the service, McClendon met and was briefly married to John Thomas O'Brien. O'Brien, a paper salesman, abandoned McClendon before the birth of their daughter and died during World War II.,[4][5] McClendon later described O'Brien as an alcoholic who "had little to recommend him but my own loneliness."[4] The couple's daughter, Sally Newcomb MacDonald, was born in June, 1944.

After insisting her full rights and privileges as a first lieutenant, McClendon was the first Army officer to give birth at a military hospital, Walter Reed Hospital. As a result of the pregnancy, McClendon was honorably discharged from the military, also in June 1944. A single mother, McClendon used her Washington, D.C., press connections to obtain a job as a Washington correspondent, starting work the same month as her daughter's birth.[7]

Washington career[edit]

In June 1944, after McClendon's discharge from the Women's Army Corps, famed newspaperman Bascom N. Timmons hired McClendon as a Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Daily News.[4] In 1946, when Timmons discharged McClendon to make room for reporters returning from service in World War II, McClendon started her own service, the McClendon News Service,[5] which provided Washington dispatches and columns to member newspapers and personal subscribers. A single mother, McClendon often brought her young daughter to news conferences.[5]

For the next several decades, McClendon attended White House press conferences on behalf of the McClendon News Service, becoming a Washington institution. She became known for her sharp questions.

Conspiracy theories[edit]

McClendon was a proponent of a number of conspiracy theories. For example, less than a month after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, McClendon wrote "My woman's intuition tells me that Lee Harvey Oswald could not and did not do that by himself. He was just a diversion. It could have been the work of the underworld, using Oswald, with his peculiar background, as a smoke screen, or it could have been a national or international plot."

McClendon was a member of Maj. Gen. Charles Willoughby's Anti-Communist Liaison - Committee of Correspondence which featured a handful of people closely associated with both the CIA or Military Intelligence and the JFK Assassination itself by conspiracy oriented researchers: Rev. Billy James Hargis, Alexander Rorke who died 2 months before the JFK assassination who was a constant associate of Frank Sturgis in Miami, who has been tied to the JFK plot as a result of the published deathbed confession proffered by E. Howard Hunt, Sturgis' CIA case officer. Edward Hunter, also on the Anti-Communist Liaison, was the author of Brainwashing which was published by Henry Regnery Press (1952). Regnery's father William Regnery headed the America First Committee which was considered isolationist and accused by some of being full of pro-Nazi sympathizers. Hunter was a self-described fascist who is considered to be the originator of the terms Brainwashing and Mind Control. Willoughby himself was identified as a JFK plot conspirator in The Man Who Knew Too Much[disambiguation needed] by Dick Russell, published in 1994 by Carroll and Graf publishers as well as by former FBI agent William Turner and researcher Mae Brussell. McClendon, a staunch proponent of the tactics of McCarthyism and a friend of Joe McCarthy, later joined the Coalition on Political Assassinations as a founding member.

McClendon was often heard spreading numerous conspiracy rumors including the idea proffered to Diane Rehm in 1995 that she was "quite sure" that Vince Foster was murdered.[4] Her close friends included Lt. Col. Philip J. Corso, who once claimed that he had witnessed an alien autopsy at Roswell, New Mexico. Although McClendon's 1996 book reluctantly accepted the Air Force's explanation that "Project Mogul" was responsible for the Roswell UFO incident,[8] by 1997, McClendon's news service spread dispatches regarding the Clinton administration's interest in Roswell which were widely circulated and discussed among Conspiracy Theorists and right-wingers.[9]


  • McClendon, S; My eight presidents, Wyden Books, 1978. ISBN 0-88326-150-2.
  • McClendon, S; Minton, J., Mr. President, Mr. President! : my 50 years of covering the White House, General Pub. Group, 1996. ISBN 1-57544-005-9.


  1. ^ "THC NRHP". Texas Historical Commission. Retrieved 2 January 2012. 
  2. ^ "THC RTHL". Texas Historical Commission. Retrieved 2 January 2012. 
  3. ^ See McClendon House website, retrieved August 2, 2006
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Sarah McClendon: 1910-2003 Reporter had a need to know, by Carl P. Leubsdorf, The Dallas Morning News, January 9, 2003
  5. ^ a b c d Sarah McClendon, Veteran Washington Reporter, Dies at 92, by Adam Bernstein, The Washington Post, January 8, 2003, retrieved July 31, 2006
  6. ^ a b McClendon, Sarah; Minton, Jules (1996). Allerton, Colby, ed. Mr. President, Mr. President!: my 50 years of covering the White House. General Publishing Group. pp. 42–45. ISBN 1-57544-005-9. 
  7. ^ McClendon, Sarah; Minton, Jules (1996). Allerton, Colby, ed. Mr. President, Mr. President!: my 50 years of covering the White House. General Publishing Group. p. 11. ISBN 1-57544-005-9. 
  8. ^ McClendon, Sarah; Minton, Jules (1996). Allerton, Colby, ed. Mr. President, Mr. President!: my 50 years of covering the White House. General Publishing Group. p. 211. ISBN 1-57544-005-9. 
  9. ^ Dégh, Linda (2001). Legend and belief: dialectics of a folklore genre. Indiana University Press. pp. 449, n.5. ISBN 0-253-33929-4. 


  • McClendon, S., Knight, M., Interviews with Sarah McClendon, Washington Press Club Foundation, 1991.
    • Transcripts of the 1991 Washington Press Club interviews.
  • Sarah McClendon papers at the University of Texas at Tyler.

External links[edit]