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Note the Byline

Note the Byline

The byline—Wauhillau La Hay—on a 1973 newspaper article about Gloria Toote, who I recently posted about, popped out at me: Who was Wauhillau La Hay?  I could see that she was a “Scripps-Howard Staff Writer with her own column, “Women in Washington,” but I wanted to know more. (Left image)

Turns out that Wauhillau La Hay’s beat from 1963-1974 was women’s issues and the White House, in particular First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, and Betty Ford.  Charming and quick witted, Wauhillau also became Lady Bird Johnson’s bridge partner and close friends with Lady Bird, Pat Nixon and Betty Ford. In 1973, she was the first woman president of the Washington Press Club.

The night before she retired Wauhillau got to sleep in the White House, an offer first made by First Lady Patricia Nixon but was unfulfilled because of her husband’s resignation.  Fortunately First Lady Betty Ford heard about the invitation and set a date that included an invitation to a family dinner. “I wrote to everyone I knew on the White House stationery,” Wauhillau later told and interviewer.

Wauhillau La Hay was also named the first woman director of Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Company, serving until 1980 when she was named an honorary emeritus director.

Born on July 14, 1896, Wauhillau La Hay grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma.  Her father was Cherokee and her mother Scottish. Wauhillau is the Cherokee word for “Eagle.”  Her father died when she was just thirteen years old. To help financially, she got her first job in journalism as a society reporter for the Muskogee Daily Phoenix. After graduating from college, Wauhillau went to work as a society reporter from 1928-1932 for the Oklahoma City Times.

Keen on airplanes, Wauhillau convinced her editors to pay for her flying lessons. She quickly got her license and wrote more than thirty-five stories about her sky-high adventures. (Years later the headline in an obituary read: “Newspapers’ ‘Flying Girl’ Dies After Brief Illness.”)

During the Great Depression, the ever resourceful Wauhillau switched to radio broadcasting, first in Oklahoma, then in Kansas City. Impressively prolific, month after month she wrote hundreds of scripts for programs. Week after week, she performed in six different shows under six different names. After a stint writing for a Chicago, Illinois, newspaper, Wauhillau La Hay moved to New York City and worked in advertising for radio and television. Her clients included celebrities from my childhood: Jimmy Durante, Peggy Lee, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, and the German Shepherd that starred in the 1950s television series, “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.“

On August 23, 1952, Wauhillau La Hay’s  semi-autobiographical article—“Smile When You Call Me Pocahontas”—appeared in Collier’s Weekly, a popular magazine.  An advocated for better treatment of Native Americans, she criticized people who counseled her not to talk about her Cherokee heritage.

Wauhillau La Hay wrote jaunty, personal, irreverent, but thorough articles. Her piece, “Candidate’ Wives Must Have Had Fun,” published the day after the 1964 presidential election, summarized the experiences of the wives of the four candidates: Here is an excerpt, “They’ve worked hard—Lady Bird, Peggy,  Muriel, and Stephanie. They’ve traveled thousands of miles, they’ve gone with little or no sleep, forgotten meals, smilingly accepted hundreds of orchids, sheafs of roses, odd corsages and odder local gifts. “ (The husbands were: Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey, William E. Miller)

After her retirement in 1974, she regaled interviewers with  “sometimes humorous—sometimes risqué—stories about life in Washington, D.C.”

Wauhillau La Hay lived to be 86 years old, dying in March 24, 1992. She is buried in Greenhill Cemetery, Muskogee, Oklahoma, under the last name of the first of her three husbands,

Philip Lohman, with whom she had one son.

Images: Article by Wauhillau La Hay in The Knowville News-Sentinel, June 24, 1973; Article by Nancy Heckt in Colorado Springs Gazette-telegraph, May 4, 1975. The caption reads: “Former White House Reporter Wauhillau LaHay holds a needle point picture of her Georgetown home.” The photographs on her wall include one of her pointing a finger at the President Lyndon Johnson. In other picture she poses with the Nixons and Fords or dances with Gregory Peck.; Claremore Museum of History, Claremore, Oklahoma

Link to a video “The Life and Times of Wauhillau La Hay” https://osiyo.tv/cherokee-almanac-the-life-and-times-of-wauhillau-lahay/

Citations:

I wrote. . .Giblin, M. L. (1987, April 30). White House ‘witch’ brew wit, words. The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO).

Newspapers . . .  (1992, March 25).  Newspapers’ ‘Flying Girl’ Dies After Brief Illness. The Oklahoman..

La Hay, W.  (1964. November 3). Candidates’ Wives Must Have Had Fun. The Knoxville News Sentinel,

Sometimes. . . Hecht, N.  (1975, May 4). Reporter’s Beat Was the White House, Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph.


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2 Comments


Fascinating! And interesting that her story tied into your recent GloriaToote blog.

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Indeed interesting!! I love when one thing leads to another and another . . .Thank you for your comment!

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