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Richard J. Hughes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard J. Hughes
Richard J. Hughes 1962.jpg
Hughes in 1962
45th Governor of New Jersey
In office
January 16, 1962 – January 20, 1970
Preceded byRobert B. Meyner
Succeeded byWilliam T. Cahill
Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court
In office
December 18, 1973 – August 10, 1979
Appointed byWilliam T. Cahill
Preceded byPierre P. Garven
Succeeded byRobert N. Wilentz
Personal details
Richard Joseph Hughes

(1909-08-10)August 10, 1909
Florence Township, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedDecember 7, 1992(1992-12-07) (aged 83)
Boca Raton, Florida, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Miriam McGrory
(m. 1935; died 1950)

Elizabeth Sullivan Murphy
(m. 1954; died 1983)

Richard Joseph Hughes (August 10, 1909 – December 7, 1992) was an American lawyer, politician, and judge. A Democrat, he served as the 45th Governor of New Jersey from 1962 to 1970, and as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1973 to 1979. Hughes is the only person to have served New Jersey as both governor and chief justice.[1][2] Hughes was also the first Roman Catholic governor in New Jersey's history.[3]

Early life and education

He was born into an Irish-American family on August 10, 1909, in Florence Township, New Jersey.[4] Hughes graduated from St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia and the New Jersey Law School, now Rutgers Law School.[2]

Lawyer and state judge

Hughes was admitted to the bar in 1932 and entered private practice in Trenton. He became active in Mercer County Democratic politics in 1937 and later became a Democratic state committeeman from the county, as well as president of the New Jersey Young Democrats. Hughes sought election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1938 from New Jersey's 4th congressional district, running as a strong supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt; he was defeated by Republican D. Lane Powers by a broad margin but established a reputation as a robust campaigner.[3]

In December 1939, Hughes became a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey. In that role, he prosecuted federal crimes, including against members of the pro-Nazi German-American Vocational League. Hughes secured numerous convictions, which bolstered his standing. Hughes stepped down as Assistant U.S. Attorney in June 1945, after being elected chairman of the Mercer County Democratic Party, and resumed private practice in partnership with Thorn Lord, who had been U.S. Attorney.[3]

In 1948, Hughes was appointed by acting Governor John M. Summerill, Jr. as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas (which, after the state court system was reorganized, became Mercer County Court). After Superior Court judge William J. Brennan, Jr. was appointed as a justice of the state supreme court in February 1952, Governor Alfred E. Driscoll appointed Hughes to fill the vacancy on the Superior Court bench. Hughes was later appointed to be assignment judge for Union County and was thereafter elevated to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.[3] As a Superior Court judge, Chief Justice Arthur T. Vanderbilt appointed Hughes as chair of a committee tasked with studying the state's handling of juvenile offenders and making recommendations for changes; the state supreme court accepted the committee's recommendations, leading to a reform of the New Jersey juvenile and domestic-relations courts.[3][2]

Hughes was considered by Governor Robert B. Meyner as a possible nominee to the state supreme court bench.[3] Seeking to support his large family, however, Hughes resigned from the bench in November 1957 in resume the practice of law.[3][2] In his successful practice, Hughes' clients included the Association of New Jersey Railroads, Public Service Electric & Gas Company, and manufacturers of polio vaccines, whom Hughes defended in antitrust matters.[2]

Governor, 1962-1970

Hughes was little known at the time he ran for governor of New Jersey in 1961, and was selected as the Democratic nominee only after the first choice of powerful party leaders, Attorney General Grover C. Richman, had a heart attack. Hughes proved to be a strong campaigner, however, and achieved an upset victory over Republican nominee James P. Mitchell, who had been U.S. Secretary of Labor during the Eisenhower administration, by slightly under 35,000 votes.[2]

One of the important issues of Hughes' term as governor was state taxation; at the time Hughes took office in 1962, "New Jersey was one of only a handful of states that had neither an income tax nor a sales tax."[2] Hughes suffered a political defeat when a bond question, which would have issued $750 million in bonds for capital construction, was voted down in the November 1962 elections.[3][2] Hughes announced his support for enactment of a state personal income tax; consideration of the proposal was delayed by leaders in the state legislature.[2] During Hughes' campaign for re-election, the tax issue was overshadowed by a political controversy arose when Eugene Genovese, an instructor at Rutgers University, publicly stated that he would "welcome a North Vietnamese victory" in Vietnam.[2] Hughes' Republican challenger, State Senator Wayne Dumont, called for Genovese to be fired; Hughes criticized Genovese's views as "outrageously wrong" but robustly supported academic freedom.[3][2]

With the backing of organized labor, Hughes was re-elected with 1,279,589 votes, with Dumont taking 915,996.[3] In his second term, he pushed for passage of a state income tax. Although both chambers of the legislature has Democratic majorities, the bill failed, having passed the state House but being defeated by a single vote in the state Senate.[2] In a compromise, the Legislature passed, and Hughes signed, the Sales and Use Tax Act, which established a 3% state sales tax effective in July 1966.[3] Hughes said "that to turn down any broad-based tax would relegate the state to second-class status."[2]

Hughes was a delegate to three Democratic National Conventions representing New Jersey. He attended Harry S. Truman's nomination for a full term as president in Philadelphia in 1948 (as an alternate), Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey's selection as standard bearer in Chicago in 1968 and Senator George S. McGovern's 1972 convention in Miami Beach.

Many credit the fact that then-President Lyndon B. Johnson had a very close friendship with Hughes, as one reason that Atlantic City hosted the 1964 Democratic National Convention.[5]

Hughes was one of three final candidates considered by vice president and presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey to be the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1968.[6]

Chief justice, 1973-1979

After serving as governor from 1962 to 1970, he served as the chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1973–1979, having been nominated for the post by his successor, William T. Cahill.[7] When Hughes was chief justice, the court issued a unanimous ruling in the Karen Ann Quinlan case, allowing an individual the right to refuse medical treatment and the right of a guardian to exercise that right if the patient cannot.[2]

Later life

Hughes left the Supreme Court in 1979 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70, and returned to the private practice of law.[3] In retirement, Hughes was of counsel at Hannoch Weisman, a New Jersey law firm, and split his time between Lawrenceville, New Jersey and Boca Raton, Florida.[4] He suffered a stroke in 1991,[4] and died the following year of congestive heart failure in Boca Raton.[2][3] He was interred at St. Mary's Cemetery in Trenton, New Jersey.[3]


The building in Trenton, New Jersey which bears his name that houses the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety (headed by the Attorney General), the courtroom, chambers and offices of the State Supreme Court, the courtroom and several chambers and offices of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, and the administrative headquarters of the statewide court system, was dedicated as the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, in 1982 in his honor.[8]

Personal life

Hughes had five sons, two daughters, and three stepsons. He married Miriam McGrory in 1935; they had four children. His first wife died in 1950; in 1955, he married Elizabeth Sullivan Murphy (d. 1983), and they had three children.[2] In 1972, Hughes would contact then-senator Joseph Biden, who he had previously never met, to provide support and advise on how to cope with the unexpected and sudden death of his wife Neilia Hunter Biden.[9]

Several of his children have become prominent in New Jersey law and politics. Hughes' stepson W. Michael Murphy Jr., a former Morris County prosecutor,[10][11] placed third in the 1997 Democratic primary for governor of New Jersey.[11] Hughes' son Brian M. Hughes is the elected county executive of Mercer County.[10][12]

See also


  1. ^ "The United States Attorney's Office: District of New Jersey – A Rich History of Public Service". Archived from the original on December 30, 2008. Retrieved July 18, 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Sullivan, Joseph F. (December 8, 1992). "Richard J. Hughes, Governor and Judge, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Stanley B. Winters, Governor Richard Hughes – Biography, The Governors of New Jersey: Biographical Essays (Reuters University Press, 2014): eds. Michael J. Birkner, Donald Linky & Peter Mickulas.
  4. ^ a b c LeDuc, Daniel (December 8, 1992). "Ex-gov. Richard J. Hughes Dies". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Jaffe, Herb (January 25, 1973). "Tearful Hughes Mourns a Great Patriot". The Star-Ledger. p. 8.
  6. ^ White, Theodore H. (1969). The Making of the President 1968. New York: Atheneum Publishers. p. 355.
  7. ^ Schwaneberg, Robert (December 29, 2005). "A critical choice for Corzine: Naming chief justice–Poritz's mandatory retirement creates several scenarios for powerful post". The Star-Ledger. In October 1973, Chief Justice Pierre Garven, a Republican, died after less than two months in the post. Then-Gov. William T. Cahill was a lame duck, having been dumped by the Republican Party in the primary. Democrats won both the governor's office and control of the Senate in the November election. Cahill nominated his Democratic predecessor, Richard J. Hughes, who had been a judge before becoming governor.
  8. ^ Web page of the Office of the Attorney General, New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety. Accessed November 22, 2006.
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b Burt A. Folkart, Richard J. Hughes; Justice Wrote Decision in Quinlan Case, Los Angeles Times (December 8, 1992).
  11. ^ a b Barbara G. Salmore, New Jersey Politics and Government: The Suburbs Come of Age (Rutgers University Press: 4th ed. 2013), p. 64.
  12. ^ Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, County Executive Brian Hughes resting after cardiac surgery, Trentonian (December 15, 2008).
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert B. Meyner
Governor of New Jersey
January 16, 1962 – January 20, 1970
Succeeded by
William T. Cahill
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert B. Meyner
Democratic Nominee for Governor of New Jersey
1961, 1965
Succeeded by
Robert B. Meyner
Legal offices
Preceded by
Pierre P. Garven
Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Robert N. Wilentz
This page was last edited on 17 November 2020, at 23:17
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