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Born in Greenfield, Iowa, in 1927, he attended Iowa State College and graduated with a B.S. in journalism. After graduation he worked for local newspapers in Council Bluffs and Omaha. While in Omaha, he taught undergraduate journalism classes at Creighton University where he was exposed to frequent, lengthy political debates between conservatives and liberals alike. He learned the lasting lesson that it was paramount to have all your facts straight and that how you said something was sometimes more important than what you said. An old Jesuit at Creighton recommended him to some former students in New York and Sidey landed a job with Life magazine where he made an immediate impact.
In 2006, The Hugh S. Sidey Scholarship in Print Journalism was established at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communications at Iowa State University by The White House Historical Association.
Sidey reported on major national and international stories such as:
- Eisenhower and the U-2 Crisis
- Kennedy at the Vienna Summit with Nikita Khrushchev
- Kennedy assassinated in Dallas
- Nixon trip to China in 1972
- Vladivostok with Gerald Ford
- Jimmy Carter at Camp David
- Lyndon B. Johnson and the "brown shoes" incident
He covered several Presidents, from Eisenhower to Clinton, and was author of the book Time Hugh Sidey's Portraits of the Presidents. He also hosted the PBS series The American Presidents. Sidey served as president of the board of directors of the White House Historical Association from 1998 to 2001, during the White House's bicentennary celebration.
Sidey left behind three daughters, a son and his wife, Anne.
- Time biography at the Wayback Machine (archived February 10, 2001)
- Time Warner author page[permanent dead link]
- "The Meaning of Cordovans" reporter Hugh Sidey recalls the event when he saw Lyndon B. Johnson wearing the wrong shoes