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Doris O'Donnell
Elizabeth before she was Queen

Doris O'Donnell interviewed Princess Elizabeth before she was Queen of England.

Doris worked for the Cleveland News which was the afternoon portion of the Plain Dealer. "We were always considered the smaller of the papers, but a good paper none-the-less."

Nat Howard was the editor of the News. "He was a wonderful person. He always had ideas. He was the kind of editor people could talk to. He kept his door open and people could always go in." As a result everybody felt that The News had the most family feeling about it - everybody felt that the reporters were really included.

Howard had a habit of coming into the newsroom and stopping by Doris' desk and making a statement such as "You're going to Russia" or "You're going to meet Elizabeth [soon to be Queen]."

Doris O'Donnell in 1954

Doris O'Donnell in 1954
Image courtesy StoryWorks.TV

Elizabeth and Phillip were coming to Williamsburg. Doris went to cover the story and found 1300 news people in attendance, all with advance notice and had all of their papers cleared by the Embassy. Doris had nothing.

"The United States Marines had sent a contingent of Marines down, including the Marines from Cleveland. I met a couple of guys I knew and I said 'What do I do? No place to stay - nothing. They actually got me a broom closet virtually with a cot in it. I finally got my press credentials."

Doris O'Donnell with Marines in 1943

Doris O'Donnell with Marine friends in 1943
Image courtesy StoryWorks.TV

This was the night before Elizabeth was going to make her first public event. The Milwaukee Journal was about to be the first paper, ever, to be all in color. They wanted the picture on the front page of their Sunday magazine to be of Elizabeth.

They had been in contact with the Embassy and worked out what she would wear and how she would come down the staircase. They put markers on the steps to show her where to stop and wait for the pictures to be taken. No one was allowed to take the set-up picture except the Milwaukee Journal "Isn't that fantastic? It was really historic."

Doris was in the press room with hundreds of female reporters. She only knew one of them, Betty Biehl, an AP reporter from Washington DC. Betty informed Doris that all of the rest of them had had press briefings and were not allowed to talk to Elizabeth. Doris had missed that briefing, so she technically had not been told not to ask questions or talk to her. Betty helped her put together some questions that Doris was going to try and ask before security removed her.

They worked their way to the front as Elizabeth was walking down the stairs. "She was so tiny and so beautiful then. She was wearing a white satin dress with stones of every different color. It was gorgeous."

As Elizabeth got near the lobby "I asked her something stupid like, 'How do you like America?' and she answered me! You could hear the crowd gasp. I asked her a few more questions and she answered them too. I was so fluttered." Elizabeth soon realized she was not following proper protocol, so she stopped but in the meantime "Everybody had a story and I really had a story!"

The next day there was a reception for Elizabeth and Doris got in line with the rest. Elizabeth nodded and greeted each person with a gracious "hello and thank you". When Doris got to her she asked "Don't you get tired of shaking hands?" and Elizabeth laughed. Doris then apologized for asking the questions the day before and Elizabeth responded that it was "great." "She was so charming and gracious," Doris remembers.

Doris O'Donnell in 2011

Doris O'Donnell in 2011

Once again, Doris had a story that nobody else had.

Back to Doris O'Donnell Profile

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Doris O'Donnell in 2011

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