The White House. The Washington Monument. The Lincoln Memorial. Garry Clifford. To us, Clifford, 64, PEOPLE'S national correspondent for special issues, ranks with our capital's most beloved landmarks. So it is with gratitude and sadness that we will bid her farewell when she retires this month. During 24 years at PEOPLE, 17 of them as Washington bureau chief, Garry has interviewed five Presidents and First Ladies, as well as politicians and celebrities from Gary Hart to Elizabeth Taylor (during Liz's tenure as Sen. John Warner's wife). For this special Best and Worst Dressed issue, she suggested the story "My Mother's Clothes" (p. 163) and spun her phenomenal Rolodex to get the scoop on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (p. 196). "Garry basically knows everyone in Washington," says executive editor Susan Toepfer, "and they all have tremendous respect for her, as well as a great deal of affection." Adds Washington correspondent Jane Sims Podesta: "She's a walking encyclopedia of all things political. She knows what's going to happen before it happens." Credit Clifford's philosophy with making her a virtual D.C. legend. "All I ever wanted to be was a reporter and tell good stories," she says, "whether they were about fun, frailty, foolishness, heroics or events that moved our hearts and minds."
Good stories about Garry will enliven the magazine's capital send-off on Sept. 17. (Among the 300 invitees: Mike McCurry, George Steph-anopoulos and Cokie Roberts.) One of our favorites concerns her first PEOPLE assignment in 1974. Covering a meeting in the Cabinet Room with Gerald Ford, she was juggling pencils, pad and tape recorder when the elastic waistband of her pantsuit snapped. "I momentarily didn't know whether to let my tape recorder drop or my trousers," she recalls. "I dropped the recorder." Such a moment might have undone a fledgling reporter, but Garry was hardly new to the game—or to encountering powerful people. The daughter of U.S. diplomat Thomas P. Carroll and Agnes McGarry Carroll, she was 18 in 1952 when she was presented to Queen Elizabeth and introduced to Winston Churchill. Four years later, one credit shy of her journalism degree at Canada's Carleton University, she plunged into reporting at the Ottawa Journal. In 1960 she became a writer on John F. Kennedy's campaign staff before marrying Washington reporter George Clifford (who died in 1985); she then freelanced while raising their three sons. In retirement, Garry plans to travel (her first stops will be Turkey and the Greek Islands) and teach an occasional journalism class at Georgetown University. But she's not about to pen a juicy tell-all about Washington. Says she: "I like eating lunch in this town too much."