Probably no American journalist, man or woman, has had a more extraordinary career than Grace Halsell. Before President Lyndon Johnson personally hired her to work in the White House, Halsell had, over a period of two decades, written her way around the world - Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Orient, and the Americas. Born on the windswept plains of West Texas, Halsell was encouraged from the age of five by her pioneer father, who had led cattle drives on the Chisolm Trail, "to travel, to get the benefit" of knowing other peoples. She began her travels at the age of twenty, going first to Mexico and then touring the British Isles by bicycle. Halsell studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and lived in London, Tokyo, Berlin, and Seoul. In Hong Kong, where she lived on a fishing junk with a Chineses family of nineteen, she wrote a column for the "Tiger Standard"; in Tokyo, where she slept on "tatami "mats, ate raw fish and took scalding "ofuro "baths, she was a columnist for the "Japan Times. "Moving to South America, she traveled on a tug for 2,000 miles down the Amazon and crossed the Andes by jeep. In Lima, she became a columnist for the Spanish-langauge daily, "La Prensa. " Halsell has seen the Big Buddha, the Taj Mahal, the pyramids and the Machu Micchu, has interviewed presidents, movie stars, kinds, and prime ministers. Her newspaper dispatches for the "New York Herald Tribune, "the "New York Post," and the "Christian Science Monitor" have datelined war zones in Korea, Vietnam, and Bosnia, as well as Russia, China, Macedonia, and Albania.