He left his home in Tripoli, Syrian now Tripoli, Lebanon, in the 1890s as a teenager. He had only a few cents in his pocket and a talisman containing the traveler’s prayer around his neck.
This month, longtime White House reporter, often called “The First Lady of the Press,” Helen Amelia Thomas died. Her impressive professional career has been well-documented by the press, as it should. A great timeline of her work can be found here. What is not in many of the news articles, but which she spoke about in interviews throughout her life, was her Lebanese heritage. The seventh of nine children, Thomas’ father immigrated from Tripoli (then Syrian, present day Lebanon) in the 1890s and returned to bring back her mother in 1903. In a 2002 work by Hugh Downs, My America: What My Country Means to Me By 150 Americans From All Walks of Life, Helen Thomas wrote a short piece. Her parents settled in Winchester, Kentucky, and Thomas grew up in Detroit, but many of the experiences she recounted from her parent’s journey is similar to those who settled in North Carolina. Read the essay below.