HMH Foundation

About Hugh M. Hefner

Hef as a guest on William F. Buckley, Jr’s TV show, “The Firing Line,” in 1966
Hef exiting a Chicago courthouse, following his arrest on obscenity charges in 1963
Hef at work, broadcasting social issues through Playboy

Born in Chicago on April 9, 1926, Playboy Founder and Editor-in-Chief Hugh M. Hefner fought vigorously for both First Amendment and civil rights, while being an iconic pioneer of the sexual revolution.

Hef giving an interview in London, 1966

Throughout his trailblazing legacy, Hef advocated for and created spaces open to diverse voices and ideas at a time when other media outlets actively sought to stifle them.

Perhaps best known for the Playboy empire, Hef began the landmark magazine in his kitchen, growing it into an internationally-recognized name that refused to comply by then-conventions. He leveraged its enormous platform to feature perspectives that actively rebelled against current cultural norms and advocated for individual freedoms. Hef originated the Playboy interview, in-depth dialogues with some of the most prominent visionaries of the time, including Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Walter Cronkite, Helen Gurley Brown and Miles Davis. These interviews rattled the cultural conventions and conversations, offering insights and critiques into pressing social issues, from mistreatment of Black Americans to the women’s movement, the LGBTQI+ community and abortion laws in the United States.

The constant racial and sexual conflicts within the United States inspired Hef to create the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation in 1964 to ensure individuals could live freely, with their rights a guarantee, not a privilege.

Through the Playboy Foundation, Hefner sponsored the lower-court cases that eventually led to Roe v. Wade, and he filed an amicus curiae brief in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled women were at the liberty to choose to have an abortion. He has taken on government institutions, including the U.S. Post Office and the FBI. Hef has been honored by organizations including the NAACP, the ACLU, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and many more. In 2017, Hef and his daughter, Christie Hefner, received a Free Expression Award, given to those who promote and defend the First Amendment.