TODAY'S HUGHE CORPS of journalists assigned to official Washington may have its hands full explaining the mysteries of the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court or Embassy Row, but only a veteran few really appreciate what it took to be a black American correpsondent in those circles decades ago. Esther Fannie Granton, who died here the other day at the age of 66, was a respected member of that pioneer club. Not only did she provide grace, wit and informative commentary for the readers of Ebony and Jet over the last quarter-century, but Miss Granton also earned a special place in the hearts of the presidents and their families who were her assignment.

Though she maintained her independence as a reporter, Miss Granton had so many friends and acquaintances and sources in a still quite segregated world that she became sort of an unofficial social adviser to the White House on Black people. In this liaison mission, she would suggest names of people to be invited to White House functions; and, without great fanfare, she would see that presidents and others were introduced. It there were oversights on the part of officials, there would be a firm advisory from Miss Granton; or if a misunderstanding appeared in the making, she would do her best to smooth things.

Miss Granton wrote a weekly "Washington Scene" column for Jet and other reports as correspondent and finally deputy cheif of the Washington bureau of Johnson Publications. She was an authority on the connection of the black community with the national political life of Washington; and through her interviews, readers shared impressions of members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and Cabinet members. Fannie Granton's friends in the news business -- black and white -- also valued her insight and counsel. We were counted among them.