White House Historical Association
Mike McCurry, Sander Vanocur, Haynes Johnson, Sid Davis, Don Larrabee, and John Palmer at The Kennedy White House and the Press panel discussion

Mike McCurry, Sander Vanocur, Haynes Johnson, Sid Davis, Don Larrabee, and John Palmer.

They Were There

The Kennedy White House and the Press

Sander Vanocur, Haynes Johnson, Sid Davis, Don Larrabee, and John Palmer

Moderator Mike McCurry and Historical Overview by Martha Joynt Kumar

To mark the 50th anniversary of the White House Historical Association, the 2011 National Heritage Lecture featured a panel of distinguished reporters who were there originally to report on the first live televised presidential press conferences of President John F. Kennedy taking place in the same State Department location.

Watch the video for brief excerpts from the opening speakers and the full panel discussion. Read the full text of Martha Joynt Kumar's historical overview.


Mike McCurry, a veteran political strategist and spokesperson with more than thirty years experience in Washington. He served in the White House as press secretary to President Bill Clinton. He also served as spokesman for the Department of State and director of communications for the Democratic National Committee.

Historical Overview

Martha Joynt Kumar, a professor in the Department of Political Science at Towson University and director of the White House Transition Project. As a scholar with a research focus on the White House, she is interested in presidential-press relations. Read the full text of her overview, Presidential Press Conferences: Windows on the Presidency and Its Occupants, and view more historical press conference video.


Sid Davis spent some forty years as a reporter and covered nine presidents. He was Washington Bureau Chief for NBC News and White House Correspondent for Westinghouse Broadcasting Co.

Haynes Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a best-selling author, and a television commentator appearing regularly on the PBS-TV programs Washington Week in Review and The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

Don Larrabee owned and operated the Griffin-Larrabee News Bureau in Washington, D.C. His career began in Massachusetts and he chronicled John F. Kennedy’s rise to the White House.

John Palmer served as White House correspondent for NBC News covering Presidents Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Carter and as news anchor for the Today Show for seven years. As a cub reporter he covered President Kennedy’s press conferences.

Sander Vanocur was a reporter for The New York Times before joining NBC News in 1957. While with NBC News, he was also Washington correspondent for the Today Show and a contributing editor to the Huntley-Brinkley Report. He joined ABC News in 1977 as chief correspondent.