The White House Correspondents’ Association has announced that African American Reporters Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne to be First Recipients of the newly created “Dunnigan-Payne Prize” named after the first two African American women to serve as members of the White House press corps.
Dunnigan-Payne Prize for Lifetime Career Achievement will be awarded on an occasional basis at the discretion of the WHCA board to recognize meritorious service throughout an individual’s career as a White House correspondent.
The namesakes of the award, the late reporters Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne, will be the first recipients of the prize. Their relatives will be on hand to accept the posthumous honor at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington on April 30.
Gayle King, co-host of “CBS Mornings,” will present the award at the dinner.
“This association of White House reporters has never given its due to these two pioneering WHCA members who paved the way for so many,” said WHCA president Steven Portnoy. “We are proud to see to it that Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne will be forever remembered for their service to the profession and to the American public.”
Ms. Dunnigan was the first African American female reporter to be credentialed at the White House in 1947. She was joined on the beat by Ms. Payne a few years later. Both women distinguished themselves during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, regularly pressing him at his press conferences – when no other reporters would – about his administration’s support for civil rights for Black Americans.
“In the face of the racism and sexism of the era, these two women fearlessly brought the concerns of their readers directly to the most powerful man in the world,” Portnoy said. “It is our honor to lift up their legacies.”
The WHCA board voted to approve the creation of the Dunnigan-Payne Prize in January 2022. Portnoy credited board members Fin Gomez and Justin Sink, whom he said were key to the efforts to bring the honor to fruition.