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D.C. PRESS GALLERY SALUTES 84-YEAR-OLD REPORTER

SHARE D.C. PRESS GALLERY SALUTES 84-YEAR-OLD REPORTER

At her first presidential news conference, reporter Sarah McClendon was too shy and unsure of herself to ask President Franklin D. Roosevelt a question.

Fifty years in the business seem to have worn away her reserve.There she was in the East Room of the White House Wednesday night, outshouting reporters half her age and grabbing President Clinton's attention with one of her patented what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it questions - this one on prenatal care.

"I can hear you," Clinton responded, drawing laughter, after the 84-year-old McClendon blared in her best Klaxon voice: "Mr. President, I want to tell you that . . . . "

Half a century ago this month the Standing Committee on Correspondents accredited McClendon as a Washington correspondent.

Since those first uncertain days in the presence of Roosevelt, McClendon grew to national fame for her acerbic, sometimes off-the-wall questioning of presidents.

On Wednesday, she allowed herself a break as the Senate press gallery threw a party for McClendon, punctuated by visits from more than a dozen senators and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, still bleary from his day of Whitewater testimony.

In an extraordinary show of appreciation for someone from a profession often at odds with politicians, the entire Senate rose to give McClendon a standing ovation.

"As everyone in Washington knows, Sarah McClendon has an uncanny ability for getting one's attention and getting answers to her questions," said Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine.