Time Magazine Reporter Hugh Sidey

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hugh Sidey, 78, the Time magazine journalist who covered the White House for decades and knew presidents and the presidency in a way that few others could match, died yesterday in Paris.

His brother, Ed Sidey, reported the death to the Associated Press. He was told that Mr. Sidey had a heart attack, the wire service said.

Mr. Sidey covered the nation's chief executives from Dwight D. Eisenhower through Bill Clinton, traveled with them, saw them in times of triumph and in moments of disappointment and was witness to and chronicler of the history they made.

Sidey, who was a contributing editor at the time of his death, "proved you can write about people in power and still be the gentleman journalist," James Carney, Time's Washington bureau chief, told the Associated Press. "He's in some ways the model we all aspire to."

An Iowa-born heir to a family of journalistic tradition, Mr. Sidey wrote three books on individual presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Gerald R. Ford.

He was known for the column "The Presidency," which he wrote for Time, the weekly newsmagazine that he joined in 1958 as White House correspondent.

In the years before that, Mr. Sidey spent a long apprenticeship in journalism in the nation's heartland, some of it at the side of his father at the Adair County (Iowa) Free Press, a family business founded by his great-grandfather.

Known for his acquaintance with the powerful and the prominent, for his writing and for his many appearances on television panel shows, Mr. Sidey was long regarded in Washington and throughout the nation as one of the most prominent and well-versed of journalism insiders.

But as he once told an interviewer, one of the most memorable periods in his career came in 1950. He had graduated from high school in his native Greenfield, Iowa. He had served for 18 months in the U.S. Army. He received a journalism degree from Iowa State University and then, for a few months, he went to work for his father.

"It was the best summer of my life," he said. On the small family newspaper, Mr. Sidey said, he "could do it all." He not only write stories but also sold advertising and took pictures and saw to it that they got printed.

Then he went to work for newspapers in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and in Omaha. After five years in Omaha, it was off to New York to work for Life magazine and begin a 50-year connection with the Time Inc. publishing empire.

As the decades passed and the presidents and the presidency came to be at the focus of momentous events, Mr. Sidey was there to watch, to interview and to inform the public.

When a prospective Cold War summit meeting was derailed during the Eisenhower administration by the U-2 spy plane crisis, Mr. Sidey reported from the White House. He was in Dallas with Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

When Johnson traveled to Vietnam during the war there, Mr. Sidey went with him, and when Richard Nixon went to China, Mr. Sidey was along.

He flew to the sites of great events with Ford and with President Jimmy Carter, taking the voluminous notes that became the raw material for his books.

It was said that he was one of a handful of journalists in whom President Ronald Reagan confided regularly. Mr. Sidey was on the airplane that carried George H.W. Bush back to Texas after his presidency ended in 1993. He also wrote about President George W. Bush.

Mr. Sidey was married to the former Anne Trowbridge, with whom he lived in Potomac. They had four children.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company