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SuccessKy: Terence Hunt saw history in the making as he covered White House for AP


 (Photos provided)

Terry Hunt’s career provided him a front row seat for presidential press conferences and included covering five presidents. (Photos provided)


 

This is the first of an occasional series on Kentuckians who have achieved national prominence.

 

By Judy Clabes
KyForward editor
 

As a boy growing up in Bellevue in Northern Kentucky, Terry Hunt lived with his family above the Rexall drugstore his dad owned. He could see the big city of Cincinnati from there.

 

As a journalist, Terence P. Hunt was chief White House correspondent for Associated Press for 25 years covering five presidents. From his seat on Air Force One, in the White House press office and his front row seat at presidential press conferences, he saw world history in the making.

 

Hunt remembers Cincinnati as “the big city with department stores, restaurants and an art museum” and Bellevue as the “small town with cool places like a movie theater, two ice cream stores on the same block, a hardware store and a dime store.”

 

Terence Hunt

Terence Hunt

With his parents and four siblings, he lived on two floors about the store and — like his siblings — worked there when he turned 12.

 

He walked to school, a Catholic elementary school a block away, and walked home for lunch.

 

Working in the drug store, “you learned how to deal with customers of all sorts and always smile” and “when you were 16 you got to drive but you spend a lot of time in the car delivering prescriptions.”

 

His parents, he said, expected he would go to college in Covington at Villa Madonna College, now Thomas More, but he had other plans. Using his drugstore earnings, he sent $125 to register at the University of Kentucky and headed to the School of Journalism.

 

His dad always referred to it as the time “Terry ran away from home.”

 

He didn’t really look back. He joined the Kernel groupies on the student newspaper (he was executive editor and managing editor), made life-long friends, was drafted into the Army, returned to start his career as a summer intern with AP in Louisville and is now in his 45th year with the company.

 

For 25 years, he was chief White House correspondent with a special space in the White House press room and a seat on Air Force One.

 

Hunt at press conference with President Bush

Hunt at press conference with President Bush

There was no better-known AP byline than Terence Hunt’s.

 

He covered Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush — through Cold War showdowns to the collapse of the Soviet Union, fro peacemaking attempts in the Middle East to secret wartime trips to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. His reports were carried around the world.

 

He logged hundreds of thousands of miles on Air Force One flying to more than 90 countries and all 50 states. He stood at the Brandenburg Gate which symbolized divided Germany as President Reagan demanded, “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev.”

 

He followed President George H.W. Bush to the deserts of Saudi Arabia as he rallied American forces and was with him in Tokyo as the suddenly-ill president was rushed from a state banquet for what was later determined was stomach flu.

 

Hunt followed Bill Clinton’s presidency on a roller coaster from recession and political turbulence to scandal and impeachment. On the evening of Clinton’s State of the Union address in 1996, Dan Rather looked into the camera and read what Hunt had written: “Terry is not only a vacuum-sweeper reporter,” Rather told viewers. “Let’s face it — this lad knows how to write a lead.”

 

He documented George W. Bush’s presidency after the 9/11 attacks, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the financial meltdown of 2008. “Are we winning” in Iraq, Hunt pressed Bush at an East Room news conference in 2006 after the deadliest month for U.S. troops in a year. “Absolutely, we’re winning,” Bush said in a headline-grabbing declaration which he changed two months later to: “We’re not winning. We’re not losing.”

 

Hunt with press corps colleagues and the elder President Bush

Hunt with press corps colleagues and the elder President Bush

Hunt left the White House as Bush’s presidency was ending to lead AP’s coverage of the historic meltdown and Great Recession. Three years later, he was named deputy chief of its bureau in Washington to help manage the news agency’s largest bureau.

 
Just last week, Hunt was named to the Hall of Distinguished Alumni at the University of Kentucky. He is already in the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame of the Society of Professional Journalists’ DC Pro Chapter. He is a former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and winner of numerous accolades for reporting.

 

He lives in Kensington, Maryland, with his wife, Jeanie Johnson. They have a grown daughter, Emily Hunt Wormald.

 


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