As First Lady Nancy Reagan tours the capitals of Europe this month (p. 90), she will see at least one familiar face: PEOPLE’s Washington bureau chief, Garry Clifford. Clifford, 50, who first covered Mrs. Reagan in September 1980 when she was the candidate’s wife, has since interviewed her for two stories and President Reagan for five.
Born a few blocks from the White House, Clifford, the daughter of the late U.S. diplomat Thomas P. Carroll, is no stranger to ceremonial occasions. In 1952, when her father was First Secretary in London, she was presented at Court. “It was pretty impressive,” she says. “Elizabeth was the new Queen. Churchill had just been appointed, and Clement Attlee, the former Prime Minister, stood by me the entire evening pointing out everyone.”
Clifford’s first name, Garry (from her mother’s maiden name, McGarry), “is the bane of my existence.” After a bylined article on Jerry Falwell two years ago, she recalls, he had fun for about three weeks broadcasting about “a woman who for some reason changed her name to a man’s.” Garry was “not amused.”
She studied journalism at Canada’s Carleton University. At 21 she snagged a job on the woman’s page of the prestigious Ottawa Journal. At 22, “I made it to the news side—a hard thing for women in those days,” she notes. She wrote features on Indira Gandhi and covered the royal visits of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. After traveling the Middle East as a free-lancer, she returned to Washington in 1960 to work as a writer for presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. That year she married George Clifford, then a Washington Daily News reporter, now a free-lance writer. They first met when they were 2 years old, at a White House Easter Egg Roll in 1937, and were photographed together with Eleanor Roosevelt holding their baskets. Their son George III, 23, is a news aide with the Washington Post; Tom, 21, graduates this month from Tulane University; and Eamon, 17, is in high school.
Clifford has never found her beat tedious. “I think we did four covers on Elizabeth Taylor during her brief sojourn as the wife of Sen. John Warner,” she says. Having chronicled most of Capitol Hill’s major figures over the past decade, Garry revels in “politics and its intrigue. All I ever wanted was to be a reporter and have six sons,” she says. “I got better than half my wish.”