- Hughes, Charles Evans
- (1862-1948)The future associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1910 to 1916, secretary of state from 1921 to 1925, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1930 to 1941 was born in Glen Falls, New York. Hughes attended Madison University (now Colgate University) and then Brown University before graduating from Columbia Law School in 1884. He practiced law in New York City and served as counsel for the New York State Legislature’s committee investigating gas companies in 1906. He achieved national prominence when, as counsel for a similar committee investigating insurance companies in 1905 and 1906, he exposed corrupt practices. In 1906, Hughes defeated William Randolph Hearst to become the Republican governor of New York. He established the public service commission and introduced insurance law reforms and several pieces of labor legislation. From 1910 he served as associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court until 1916, when he stood as the Republican presidential candidate. He lost the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson by one of the narrowest margins in history.Hughes was appointed secretary of state by President Warren Harding and President Calvin Coolidge from 1921 to 1925. In 1926, he became a member of the Hague Tribunal and also a judge on the Permanent Court of Internal Justice from 1928 to 1930. He was appointed chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by Herbert Hoover in 1930. As chief justice, Hughes generally held a moderately conservative position. He ruled in favor of the Scottsboro Boys in 1932 in the decision that those tried in capital cases were entitled to proper counsel, and again in 1935 against trials in which black people had been systematically excluded as jurors. However, Hughes had a mixed record with regard to the New Deal. In 1935, he led the majority decisions in three crucial cases against New Deal measures: Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States against the National Industrial Recovery Act, Louisville Joint Stock Land Bank v. Radford against relief for farm debtors; and Hopkins Federal Savings & Loan Assn. v. Cleary against the Home Owners’ Loan Act. In United States v. Butler in 1936, Hughes joined with Owen J. Roberts, and the four consistently conservative justices, Willis Van Devanter, James McReynolds, George Sutherland, and Pierce Butler, in declaring the Agricultural Adjustment Act unconstitutional. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted what was seen as “court packing” with a proposed Court Reorganization Plan in 1937, Hughes publicly and crucially criticized the president’s argument and contributed to the act’s defeat. However, he was aware that the court needed to respond to the times, and in 1937 he led the “switch in time that would save nine” in heading the decision to sustain minimum wage laws (West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish) and later in approving the National Labor Relations Board (National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp.). He also voted with the majority in subsequent decisions approving the Social Security Act, the revised Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act. He retired from the Supreme Court in 1941 after a life of public service.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.