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White House reporters to honor black journalist

WASHINGTON (AP) - Harry McAlpin was standing outside the Oval Office, moments away from becoming the first black reporter to attend a presidential press conference, when one of his contemporaries approached with a deal.

Stay out here, the reporter told McAlpin. The other White House correspondents would share their notes, and McAlpin would have a chance to become an official member of the correspondents association. McAlpin marched into the Oval Office anyway. Afterward, President Franklin Roosevelt shook McAlpin's hand and said, "I'm glad to see you, McAlpin, and very happy to have you here."

McAlpin, who became a fixture at the White House during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, never got a White House Correspondents' Association membership. But now, in its centennial year, the WHCA is honoring McAlpin with a scholarship bearing his name.

The scholarship will be presented Saturday night during the WHCA's annual dinner with President Barack Obama.

"Harry McAlpin is someone who should be recognized and shouldn't be forgotten," National Journal correspondent George Condon, the association's unofficial historian, said this week during a panel discussion about diversity and the White House press corps.

WHCA President Steven Thomma noted that the correspondents group is much more diverse now than in the days when it refused membership to blacks, thus excluding them from presidential press conferences.

"Not quite where this press corps probably ought to be to have the kind of voices and questions we want to hear, but I think we've made some progress," Thomma said.

Before McAlpin, minority reporters had been excluded from many official Washington news conferences.

That changed after the creation of the National Negro Publishers Association in 1941. John Sengstacke, the publisher of the Chicago Defender and one of the creators of the NNPA, opened a Washington bureau for the Defender and hired McAlpin, a lawyer, as a part-time correspondent. During a discussion with Attorney General Francis Biddle about the black press' war coverage, Sengstacke suggested the attorney general ask the White House to allow a black reporter into its news conferences.

In February 1944, Roosevelt invited 13 NNPA leaders to the White House, and three days later, McAlpin was standing outside the Oval Office, waiting for his first news conference as a White House reporter.

The breaking of that barrier did not mean that everything was now fine inside the White House for blacks. Roosevelt press secretary Stephen Early refused to introduce McAlpin to the president, as was customary at that time, leading McAlpin to walk up to Roosevelt alone, said Earnest L. Perry Jr., who wrote about the attempt to credential a black White House correspondent for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Although he tried using his White House press pass, McAlpin was never credentialed to cover Congress. Louis Lautier ended up being the first accredited African-American congressional reporter.

McAlpin eventually left Washington to practice law in Louisville, Kentucky, and later became the president of the local NAACP chapter. He died in 1985.

McAlpin's son Sherman, who lives in Maryland, will attend Saturday's WHCA dinner and meet with Obama.

Join the discussion

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Michael May 03 2014 at 3:36 PM

The next obama award goes to the first black man to sneeze.

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1 reply
nam2205 Michael May 03 2014 at 4:36 PM

Thats for sure, and I want my freedom of speach back. I sould be able to say what ever the hell I want to.

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1 reply
jestindam nam2205 May 03 2014 at 6:40 PM

Before you ask for freedom of speech you need to learn how to spell it.

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kcarthey May 03 2014 at 5:39 PM

As a White male nearing 71, I'm both amazed and proud at the progress that my country has made in terms of equality for all people in my lifetime. Our nation is better for it though the job is far from finished.

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2 replies
keithj77441 kcarthey May 03 2014 at 6:47 PM

How's that? Let them have more college scholarships over others because of their skin color?

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thebwaco kcarthey May 04 2014 at 2:14 AM

Yes, one needs only to observe all the racist posts about this article to see that we have a long way to go.

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Lettybits May 03 2014 at 5:39 PM

Here we go again!

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fisher2737 May 03 2014 at 5:47 PM

This is another way for Obama to 'get back" at the whites, since only 43% voted for him ( that's a decent number ) the first time and 96% of the blacks voted for him.( that's 100% RACIST. Obama is Anti-American, has admitted in the past that he is a Muslim ( and still is ), and has been doing as much as he can with his better-half to utterly destroy this country with lies and his own bigotry. He just goes "through the motions" while doing things such as hanging Medals Of Honor on recipients. He'd rather be playing golf but that just wouldn't look good. If it has something to do with a black person, he just cannot wait to get there and do what he can. Speaking of bigots.

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1 reply
bkancessors fisher2737 May 03 2014 at 7:09 PM

You are the biggest ass-hole that I read about in a long time,your whole family is the same,you know the old saying an apple does not fall far from it's parents,I guess.

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1 reply
thebwaco bkancessors May 04 2014 at 2:12 AM


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hanlon1212 May 03 2014 at 5:49 PM

More cult of the poison mind posts against the President -- they sure miss their

traitor / war criminal .

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2 replies
keithj77441 hanlon1212 May 03 2014 at 6:46 PM

How?? We already replaced him with the protest organizing communist war criminal apologist traitor

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d.carns hanlon1212 May 03 2014 at 6:55 PM

YOu mean Obama the traitor and war criminal don't you!!!!

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1 reply
Joan d.carns May 03 2014 at 8:00 PM

Absolutely, the obama of the fourth reich.

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lov2elkhnt May 03 2014 at 6:13 PM

Nixon didn't even do half of what Osama Obamanation has done in half the time. Impeach his America hating ass so hard and fast it makes a sonic boom leaving Washington DC on the way to Gitmo, the place he said he would shut down in 2008. Bye bye liar boy!!!

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4 replies
ajt1025 May 03 2014 at 6:35 PM

I guess he did something good for America as Obozo has done nothing for Americans except tell lies and raise the debt. Maybe this guy helped him along, good reason for giving an honor to him.

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1 reply
cognitogrrl ajt1025 May 03 2014 at 8:42 PM

Never read it at all, did you ajt? Mr. McAlpin was a reporter during the years of FDR. Get it now, do ya?

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keithj77441 May 03 2014 at 6:44 PM

So tired of this first black this, first black that, first homo this, first home that, first mexican this, first Mexican that, first Sudanese-vietnamese mixed this or that ........ We should just stop these racist antics and sayings altogether.

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1 reply
c.wu3 keithj77441 May 03 2014 at 7:27 PM

Yeah I'm tired of first white this, first white that crap too!

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Eric May 03 2014 at 6:47 PM

Mcalpin wasn't good enough to be a member of the organizaion, but their use of him now seems cynical.

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1 reply
thebwaco Eric May 04 2014 at 1:53 AM

Probably 95% of the white reporter were good enough either but they were allowed to be members, so I'm missing your point.

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dean552014 May 03 2014 at 6:53 PM

funny stuff--- just days after the news media voted the bomber as the most secrete administration ever-- they have a shin-dig at the white house to honor-- a white house reporter--- you cannot make up stuff this good

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