Charles Evans Hughes

Charles Evans Hughes

Associate and Chief Justice

Charles Evans Hughes was born in Glens Falls, New York, on April 11, 1862. He died on August 27, 1948, at the age of eighty-six.

He was educated by his parents but matriculated at Madison College (now Colgate) when he was fourteen. He graduated in 1881 from Brown University and received a law degree from Columbia University in 1884.

Law Practice:
He scored an amazing 99 1/2 on his bar exam at the age of 22. He practiced law in New York for 20 years, with only a three-year break to teach law at Cornell Law School. Hughes earned national recognition for his investigation into illegal rate-making and fraud in the insurance industry. After losing the election, he returned to his law practice in New York.

Government Service:
With an endorsement from Theodore Roosevelt, Hughes ran successfully for New York governor, defeating Democrat William Randolph Hearst in 1906. He was re-elected two years later. Hughes ran but lost the 1916 presidential election to Woodrow Wilson. After losing the election, he returned to his law practice in New York.

After that brief return in private practice, Hughes was called to politics again, this time as secretary of state for Warren G. Harding. Hughes served as Secretary of State from 1921 to 1925. Hughes continued in this role during the presidency of Calvin Coolidge. He subsequently resumed his law practice while serving in the Hague as a United States delegate to the Permanent Court of Arbitration from 1926 to 1930.

Judicial Office:
On April 25, 1910, President William H. Taft nominated Hughes to the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Senate confirmed the appointment on May 2, 1910. In 1910, Hughes accepted nomination to the High Court from President Taft. He was commissioned on May 2, 1910 and he was sworn in on October 10, 1910. Six years later, on June 10, 1916, Hughes resigned to run against Woodrow Wilson for the presidency as the nominee of the Republican and Progressive Parties. He lost by a mere 23 electoral votes.

On February 3, 1930, President Herbert Hoover nominated Hughes for Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on February 13, 1930. Hughes' nomination to be chief justice met with opposition from Democrats who viewed Hughes as too closely aligned with corporate America. Their opposition was insufficient to deny Hughes the position. He was commissioned on February 13, 1930. After serving eleven years as Chief Justice, Hughes retired from his post on June 30, 1941.

He presided over the court during the Great Depression and the New Deal era. Known as a master of consensus, he guided the court in its transformation from opposing much of the New Deal legislation to acceptance of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's programs for a new national economy.

Hughes authored twice as many constitutional opinions as any other member of his Court. His opinions were concise and admirable.

More Biographical Information:

  • Charles E. Hughes From the Oyez Project (Northwestern University).
  • Charles Evans Hughes From Brown University.
  • Hughes, Charles Evans From Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • Judges of the United States Courts From the Federal Judicial Center
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