Hugh Hill, the longtime ABC 7 newsman whose booming voice delivered the latest in Chicago politics for more than 30 years, has died at age 89.
The Naperville man is being remembered by colleagues for his commanding presence, his encyclopedic knowledge of local politics and his fearless approach to reporting -- a job Hill once said he wanted since he was 6 years old.
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"Hugh, I'm sure, was convinced it was the best job in the world. He truly loved it," said ABC 7 feature reporter Frank Mathie, who worked alongside Hill for 29 years.
Hill, who died Friday, grew up the son of a coal miner in downstate Gillespie. After serving in the Army Air Corps. during World War II, he studied journalism -- and, according to him, partying -- at the University of Missouri, ABC 7 reported.
He was one of the first political reporters on Chicago television, joining forces with Alex Dryer and Frank Reynolds at Channel 2 in 1953. A decade later, Hill went to Channel 7, where he took the rank of political editor and remained for 33 years until his retirement in 1996.
Mathie described him as "gifted" journalist whose persistence and loud, distinctive voice made him stand out among his peers, as well as to the politicians he covered.
"When you heard Hugh's voice, you listened," he said. "He was the master at interviewing people. I always felt at news conferences that it was his voice that prompted the best answer. Hugh was never afraid to ask a tough question. In my opinion, he invented television news political reporting -- just by his style."
Madeleine Doubek, chief operating officer for Reboot Illinois, remembers Hill visiting her high school to cover an appearance by former Vice President Walter Mondale. About seven years later, she found herself covering a news conference standing next to him.
"It was like working next to a legend," said Doubek, a former political reporter and Daily Herald managing editor. "He always was so generous and gracious and treated everyone like he was their equal. I had the utmost respect for him. The guy is the definition of longevity and institutional knowledge when it comes to politicians in Chicago and Illinois."
Mathie said Hill, who is survived by his wife of 60 years, Jackie, and five children, loved Naperville and lived across the street from a country club where he pursued another passion: golf.
The red-haired, bespectacled reporter also was a captivating party guest, Mathie said, thanks to his sense of humor, his tenor singing voice and his wide-ranging interests.
"Hugh Hill was truly one of a kind," he said.
Journalist: 'Hugh was truly one of a kind'