newspaper and broadcast reporter
Esther Van Wagoner Tufty (1896-1986), nicknamed “the Duchess,” enjoyed a 50-year career in Washington D.C. as a respected journalist who covered every president from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. Tufty, a native of Michigan’s thumb area, was the sister of Murray D. Van Wagoner, who served as governor of the state from 1941-42. She was raised in Pontiac and after high school went to work for the newspaper there as a society editor. She attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison. When she moved to Washington, Tufty opened a news bureau for 26 small Michigan newspapers. At its height her service provided stories to hundreds of newspapers. She was also a pioneer radio and television broadcaster. Her radio program, “Tufty Topics” became a Washington staple. She covered the 1952 GOP convention in Chicago as a member of the NBC television staff broke the story that the switch from Taft to Eisenhower would occur in the Michigan delegation. She later became Washington news editor for the Arlene Francis Home program and had a daily spot on the Mike Wallace weekday show. Tufty served as president of the American Women in Radio and Television, the American Newspaper Women’s Club and the Women’s National Press Club. She helped young reporters, many of them women (including Liz Carpenter, who went on to serve as press secretary for Lady Bird Johnson). Tufty was colorful and courageous. When the Soviets blockaded Berlin after World War II, she flew into the city atop 10 tons of airlifted coal. She covered three wars and numerous political campaigns. Despite numerous health problems, including cancer, the loss of an eye and the installation of seven heart pacemakers, she continued to turn out copy from her office in the National Press Building. In 1976, she was elected to the Washington Hall of Fame by the Washington Professional Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi.