Sarah McClendon, Irish-American

On March 17, 2013, friends of Ireland around the world celebrated the feast day of St. Patrick, a Christian missionary and bishop in 5th century Ireland. For the UASC, any celebration of St. Patrick’s Day includes special recognition of our most famous Irish-American subject: White House Correspondent and Tyler native, Sarah Newcomb McClendon.

Sarah identified strongly with her family’s Irish roots. Although her papers at the UASC deal predominantly with her journalism career, she donated a small number of photographs and artifacts pertaining to her work in Ireland and her advocacy on behalf of Irish-Americans.

One of the most fascinating items is this small leather bound journal from Sarah’s 1937 trip to Ireland.

The first journal entry, recording Sarah’s train schedule from Bryan, Texas to St. Louis, Missouri, is dated September 13, 1937. Sarah arrived in Ireland sometime in October 1937. The Fianna Fáil government of the Irish Free State had ratified the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland in July 1937, only months before her arrival. The new Constitution, which replaced the Irish Free State with the sovereign Republic of Ireland, went into force December 29, 1937. Sarah’s travel journal included both handwritten and typewritten notes about her experiences, contacts, and research during the first year of the Republic of Ireland.

McClendonJournal

She recorded her impressions of various tourist sites as well as candid interviews with neighboring families, clergyman, and revolutionaries. As in her post-World War II journalism, Sarah paid special attention to the plight of women, laborers, and veterans. She also wrote at length about the Irish rose growing industry, paying homage to her Tyler, Texas upbringing.

In one entry (undated), she recounts overhearing “an explosion that might have swallowed up the earth and that left one breathless” on the night of November 10th. According to her journal, the landlord indicated that the explosion came from Dublin castle where a handful of Irishmen had dynamited “the British coat of arms over the courtyard gate”.

In 1938, Sarah McClendon worked as the Washington correspondent for Dublin’s Irish Independent newspaper. In the photo below, Sarah McClendon (far right) attends a sporting event in Washington, D.C. with the head of Ireland’s parliamentary government, Sean MacBride (second from right).

McClnedon and MacBride
Sarah McClendon visits with fellow Irish-American, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, at a Washington, D.C. function.

JFK
Sarah McClendon visits with former U.S. Senator George Murphy (far right) at a St. Patrick’s Day Party hosted by the National Press Club, March 15, 1974.

McClendonMurphy

In 1990, the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee of Washington, D.C. declared Sarah McClendon a “Distinguished Irish-American”. The plaque reads: “In recognition of one of the most extraordinary American careers in journalism in our history and for exemplifying the traits of love, faith, courage and leadership bred into all sons and daughters of Erin by the blessed and loving memory of Saint Patrick.”

McClendonPlaque

Want to Learn More about Sarah McClendon?

1. Visit the finding aid for the Sarah McClendon papers.
2. Check out our permanent digital exhibit.
3. Read more about her career as a White House Correspondent.
4. See our previous posts on the Sarah McClendon Papers.

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Filed under Sarah McClendon Papers, Special Collections

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