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The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes

The Politics of Civility

John B. Wefing

Publication Year: 2009

The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes explores the influential public service of this two-term New Jersey governor, the only person in New Jersey history to serve as both governor and chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. John B. Wefing's research includes interviews with prominent politicians and leaders who worked with Hughes at various points in his career. The result is a rich story of a public servant who possessed a true ability to work with members of both political parties and played a significant role in shaping modern New Jersey.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. 1-5

Richard J. Hughes, the only person to serve as both governor and chief justice of New Jersey, was also the state’s first Catholic governor. He was also the first truly modern governor to lead the state. Known on both the national and international political stage, Hughes won widespread praise for chairing the Credentials Committee at the contentious 1968 Democratic National Convention,...

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Chapter 1: The Early Days

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pp. 6-12

Richard J. Hughes was born at home in Florence, New Jersey, on August 10, 1909. His parents, Richard Paul Hughes and Veronica Gallagher Hughes, were working people, struggling to make ends meet. His paternal ancestors immigrated from Ireland during the potato famine...

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Chapter 2: The Young Politician

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pp. 13-25

When Hughes graduated from law school in 1932, the country was still in the midst of the Great Depression and employers were not eager to hire a twenty-three-year-old novice lawyer from the non-ivied halls of New Jersey Law School in Newark.1 Joseph Katz, who served in the Hughes administration...

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Chapter 3: The Bench

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pp. 26-38

In 1948, Governor Alfred E. Driscoll, a Republican, appointed Hughes, a Democrat, to a judgeship. This was in keeping with the New Jersey tradition of balancing Democratic and Republican membership on the courts. Some felt that it was not only Hughes’s proven legal abilities that led to his appointment. They speculated that Driscoll wanted to remove...

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Chapter 4: Private Practitioner

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pp. 39-44

After resigning from the bench in 1957, Hughes opened a private practice in Trenton. He divided his time between Trenton and Newark, where he had a working relationship with the law firm Bilder and Bilder. As his Trenton practice grew, Hughes asked a young attorney, James McLaughlin, to join him. Later, he added Mary Jo Dixon as an associate...

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Chapter 5: Governor Hughes: The First Campaign

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pp. 45-65

Alfred Driscoll and Robert Meyner were the first two governors to serve under the New Jersey Constitution of 1947. Driscoll, a Republican, served under the old constitution from 1947 to 1950 and under the new from 1950 to 1954. Meyner, a Democrat, served from 1954 to 1962. The new constitution gave the governor far greater powers than the earlier constitution had...

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Chapter 6: The Early Days as Governor

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pp. 66-82

Governor Hughes took office in 1962 while John F. Kennedy was president. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, which included the famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you— ask what you can do for your country,”1 had stirred the country. It seemed a time of great potential...

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Chapter 7: Dallas, 1963—Atlantic City, 1964

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pp. 83-97

The assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, was a traumatic event for the United States and the world. Initially, many people could not believe the news. Hughes, who had come to know the president well, and who believed that Kennedy’s support during his campaign had made a difference in his election...

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Chapter 8: Civil Rights

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pp. 98-106

Hughes spoke out in favor of civil rights during his first campaign, and this issue bedeviled society throughout the entire period of Hughes’s governorship. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, organized by many African American leaders, gave a great boost to the civil rights movement...

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Chapter 9: Making a Difference: Hughes Confronts New Jersey’s Challenges

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pp. 107-121

In addition to the volatile issue of civil rights, Hughes had to face many other challenges throughout his years as governor, including the death penalty, the minimum drinking age, education, transportation, and many others. These challenges continued throughout his two terms in office...

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Chapter 10: The Second Campaign

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pp. 122-128

Hughes was selected to run again in 1965 without any significant opposition within the Democratic Party. There was, however, some opposition within his family. Betty was not in favor of a second term. Hughes said, “It never occurred to me not to run for a second term. I liked the job, I had a lot to do. I hadn’t accomplished what I had hoped to accomplish...

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Chapter 11: The Second Term

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pp. 129-138

The morning of Hughes’s second inauguration was very similar to the morning of his first. After a Mass at Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, he led a procession of major state dignitaries to the State House. His brother, Father Joseph Hughes, gave the invocation, and Robert Burkhardt...

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Chapter 12: A Flood of Legislation

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pp. 139-160

With the large Democratic majorities in the Senate and Assembly, Hughes spearheaded an ambitious legislative program in his second term. More than 300 bills were passed in 1966. A minimum wage bill was just one of the proposals he put forth. There was no state minimum wage law...

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Chapter 13: Working for Peace: At Home and Abroad

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pp. 161-181

In June 1967, Hughes was involved in an important international diplomatic event, the Glassboro Summit, held at Holly Bush, the home of the president of New Jersey’s Glassboro State College (later renamed Rowan University).1 A major summit meeting between Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin...

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Chapter 14: 1967–1968

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pp. 182-195

Hughes’s great victory in 1965, when he was reelected and brought in Democratic majorities in both the Assembly and Senate, and the tremendous success he had in the early days of his second term, led him to become even more ambitious in pushing his progressive liberal agenda. However, a number of the reforms he backed...

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Chapter 15: The 1968 Democratic National Convention

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pp. 196-212

The period leading up to the 1968 Democratic National Convention was a time of turmoil. The plight of the cities—the underlying racial tensions—and the war in Vietnam dominated the news. President Johnson’s handling of the war was under attack around the country. Theodore White, who chronicled the national political conventions...

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Chapter 16: An Education Governor

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pp. 213-226

Throughout his governorship and his life, education was important to Hughes. Many governors in New Jersey have focused on education, but Hughes may have been one of the most important, particularly in the area of higher education. In New Jersey, primary and secondary education is largely handled by local municipalities...

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Chapter 17: The Hugheses Leaving Morven and Returning to Private Life

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pp. 227-243

Betty Hughes was an outgoing and vivacious woman, and was a major asset to her husband. Throughout the later part of her life, Betty was engaged in an ongoing battle with her weight. She would eventually deal with a number of illnesses, some of them related to her weight problem, but her occasional bouts of illness did not slow her down...

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Chapter 18: Chief Justice

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pp. 244-268

Hughes was the only person in New Jersey history to serve as both the state’s governor and its chief justice.1 Hughes’s appointment to the position of chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court came as a shock to many in the state because he was appointed by Republican Governor William Cahill. In typical Hughes fashion, however, the men were actually good friends...

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Chapter 19: The Later Years

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pp. 269-288

After Hughes retired as chief justice, the New Jersey legislature created the Richard J. Hughes Chair in Constitutional and Public Law and Service at Seton Hall University School of Law. Seton Hall was probably chosen for a number of reasons: his son, Michael Murphy, had graduated from the law school...


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pp. 289-332


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pp. 333-357

E-ISBN-13: 9780813548289
E-ISBN-10: 0813548284
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813546414
Print-ISBN-10: 0813546419

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 9 photographs
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Catholics -- New Jersey -- Biography.
  • Liberalism -- New Jersey -- History -- 20th century.
  • Judges -- New Jersey -- Biography.
  • Hughes, Richard J. (Richard Joseph), 1909-1992.
  • New Jersey. Supreme Court -- Biography.
  • Governors -- New Jersey -- Biography.
  • New Jersey -- Politics and government -- 1951-.
  • New Jersey -- Social policy.
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