Sidney Epstein, Top DC Editor, Dies

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(AP) Sidney Epstein, who began his almost five-decade journalism career as a copy boy at one Washington paper and rose to editor of The Washington Star, has died. He was 81.

Epstein died Sunday at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. He had pneumonia.

Epstein supervised coverage of many major stories, including the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

He broke into journalism as a copy boy at the Washington Herald in 1937 after studying at George Washington University.

In 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving as an artillery officer in the Pacific during World War II. He left the service as a first lieutenant.

After the war, he returned to the paper, then called the Washington Times-Herald. He was the paper’s city editor in 1954 when it was sold to The Washington Post.

He joined the Star as an assistant city editor, steadily rising through its hierarchy to serve as city editor, assistant managing editor, managing editor, and executive editor before becoming associate publisher, editor, and a member of the paper’s board of directors.

When the Star closed shop in 1981, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Carl Bernstein described Epstein’s lasting impact on newsroom employees there. “If there was a father figure in our universe, it was Sid Epstein, a study in monogrammed shirts and perfectly clipped nails, a city editor with knowledge of Washington’s streets that came from growing up in them and working the desk at the Times-Herald,” Bernstein wrote. “The Star was very much a local paper; this was the area of coverage where we still clobbered the Post, and Epstein did not take lightly to the notion of losing the edge.”

One of Epstein’s hires at the Times-Herald was Jacqueline Bouvier, who later married Kennedy. After she died in 1994, Epstein reminisced to Washingtonian magazine about hiring her. “I remember her as this very attractive, cute-as-hell girl, and all the guys in the newsroom giving her a good look,” he said. Despite her inexperience, he hired her as a photographer and paid her $25 a week.

After the Star folded, Epstein briefly joined a telecommunications firm and served as consultant to the Toronto Sun when the paper explored the prospect of publishing a newspaper in Washington.

Epstein’s wife, Eleni, the former fashion editor of the Star, died in 1991. He is survived by a daughter, Diane Morales of Collierville, Tenn.

Services will be at Arlington National Cemetery. Further details were not immediately available.

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