The trailblazing journalist died in her Washington apartment Saturday morning after a long illness, according to The Gridiron Club and Foundation, a journalistic organization for which Thomas once served as president.
Born in Winchester, Ky., she joined United Press in 1943 and began covering president-elect Kennedy in 1960. She became the official UPI White House correspondent in January 1961. She was known for sitting in an assigned seat on the front row in the briefing room, asking tough, pointed questions and always ending every press conference by saying, "Thank you, Mr. President."
Thomas retired in 2010, shortly after her controversial remarks about the Iraeli-Palestinian conflict drew criticism. In an interview posted on YouTube, Thomas said that the Israeli Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and that Jews should go home to "Poland, Germany ... and America and everywhere else."
Though Thomas apologized for her comments, insisting "peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance," she retired one week later.
It was an unfortunate end to an illustrious career. Thomas was a female pioneer, becoming the first female president of the White House Correspondents' Association. Thomas continued to serve as a mentor to young reporters into her 80s. "I hope there are many women following me right in this same spot" she said.