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Hugh Hill, longtime Channel 7 political reporter, editor, dies at 89

Hugh Hill  |  WLS-Channel 7 photo

Hugh Hill | WLS-Channel 7 photo

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Updated: November 22, 2013 6:21AM

Longtime WLS-Channel 7 political reporter Hugh Hill was known for his booming voice and the tough questions he asked of politicians.

Once, he asked then-Gov. Jim Thompson about the Florida vacation he took as snow pounded his state.

“Governor, are you surprised that 22 counties in Illinois are in a state of paralysis, you declared the emergency, and you were sitting under a palm tree. Now don’t you think the people might get upset about that?” Mr. Hill said on video posted on Channel 7’s website.

The former political reporter and editor for the local ABC station died Friday at his Naperville home of 50 years, Mr. Hill’s daughter, Jennifer Vetter said. He was 89.

Mr. Hill started his career in Chicago in 1953 and covered both Daleys as mayor, several governors and every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected, according to a biography on the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’s Chicago website.

“He had the most distinctive voice in the history of Chicago broadcasting,” said Frank Mathie, a longtime features reporter at Channel 7. “When you heard Hugh’s voice you knew it was Hugh and you knew he was probably going to ask a tough question.”

There was also the blazing red hair, trademark fedora and horn-rimmed glasses to top off his distinctive persona, which commanded attention, colleagues remembered.

But he was a funny, down-to-earth guy who earned the trust of the people he covered.

“He got to know the politicians so well, and they liked him and trusted him and they would give him the scoops that no one else got,” Mathie said.

Mr. Hill was born in Gillespie, Ill., to a coal miner and school teacher, his daughter said. He joined the United States Army Air Corps during World War II and used the GI Bill benefits to attend the University of Missouri, where he studied journalism, according to the online biography.

After graduating, Mr. Hill first worked in radio. In 1953, he arrived in Chicago, his daughter said.

It’s in Chicago he met the former Jacqualyne Williams, his Near North Side neighbor who would become his wife of 60 years, Vetter said.

After working for WBBM radio and WBBM-Channel 2, Mr. Hill joined Channel 7 in 1963, according to the online biography.

Mr. Hill retired in 1996 and, according to a Channel 7 video, said that day, “I wanted to be a reporter since I was 6 years old. I did it. I had a great career.”

Aside from work, Mr. Hill was devoted to his wife and five children. He was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and loved to play golf, his daughter said.

Mr. Hill is survived by his wife; a brother, James; sons Caven, Michael and Steve; daughters Helen Wenzel and Jennifer Vetter; nine grandchildren and five great-grand children.

A wake is scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Blake Lamb Funeral Home, 5015 Lincoln Ave., Lisle. A mass will take place at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 36 N. Ellsworth St., Naperville, with a luncheon to follow at the Naperville Country Club.


Twitter: @schlikerman

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