Telling the History of Claremore…one story at a time
Newspapers’ “Flying Girl” Dies After Brief Illness
Wauhilau LaHay was born in Claremore, Oklahoma on July 14, 1896 to parents John Martin LaHay and Annie Russell. In 1907, LaHays moved to Muskogee where Joseph set up his law practice closer to the federal court here. Tragically he died of a heart attack at the young age of 43 in 1911. Wauhillau (which in Cherokee means eagle) took a job as a school reporter for the Muskogee Phoenix to help the family financially. She was 15 at the time, but this job set her on a very successful career path. She attended Oklahoma A&M College and wrote for the school newspaper and then returned home to Muskogee after graduation. From Muskogee she moved on to a larger market in Oklahoma City.
One of LaHay’s early adventures occurred when she was assigned to interview Prince William of Sweden as a teen-age reporter for The Oklahoman in 1928. In a 1972 interview, LaHay recalled how she lost her cool and squealed, “Oooh, hello prince. ” A year later, the newspaper financed flying lessons for LaHay in return for a daily account of her progress in learning how to fly.
She wrote for the society section of the Oklahoma City Times newspaper and also broadcasted the news on the radio while in Oklahoma City. Further moves and advances in her career took her to Chicago and then New York.
At the height of her career, LaHay was the White House correspondent for the Scripps-Howard news outlet. She was elected president of the Washington Press Club as the first woman to hold this office. LaHay counted several first ladies as close friends, including Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford. She retired from this position and settled finally in Colorado. In 1977. Wauhillau was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame and is in America’s Who’s Who. She passed away March 24, 1992.