Charles Evans Hughes


Charles Evans Hughes : biography

April 11, 1862 – August 27, 1948

Hughes, however, would be unsuccessful in achieving one of his main goals as governor: primary voting reform. Hoping to achieve a compromise with the state’s party bosses, Hughes rejected the option of a direct primary in which voters could choose between declared candidates and instead proposed a complicated system of nominations by party committees. The state’s party bosses, however, rejected this compromise and the state legislature rejected the plan on three occasions in 1909 and 1910.

In his final year as the Governor, he had the state comptroller draw up an executive budget. This began a rationalization of state government and eventually it led to an enhancement of executive authority. He also signed the Worker’s Compensation Act of 1910, which required a compulsory, employer-paid plan of compensation for workers injured in hazardous industries and a voluntary system for other workers; after the New York Court of Appeals ruled the law unconstitutional in 1911, a popular referendum was held that successfully made the law an amendment in the New York Constitution.

In 1908, Governor Hughes reviewed the clemency petition of Chester Gillette concerning the murder of Grace Brown. The governor denied the petition as well as an application for reprieve, and Gillette was electrocuted in March of that year.

When Hughes left office, a prominent journal remarked "One can distinctly see the coming of a New Statism … [of which] Gov. Hughes has been a leading prophet and exponent". In 1926, Hughes was appointed by New York Governor Alfred E. Smith to be the chairman of a State Reorganization Commission through which Smith’s plan to place the Governor as the head of a rationalized state government, was accomplished, bringing to realization what Hughes himself had envisioned.

In 1909, Hughes led an effort to incorporate Delta Upsilon fraternity. This was the first fraternity to incorporate, and he served as its first international president.

Early career

After graduating Hughes began working for Chamberlain, Carter & Hornblower where he met his future wife. In 1888, shortly after he was married, he became a partner in the firm, and the name was changed to Carter, Hughes & Cravath. Later the name was changed to Hughes, Hubbard & Reed. In 1891, Hughes left the practice of law to become a professor at the Cornell University Law School, but in 1893, he returned to his old law firm in New York City to continue practicing until he ran for governor in 1906. He continued an association with Cornell as a special lecturer from 1893 to 1895. He was also a special lecturer for New York University Law School, 1893–1900.

At that time, in addition to practicing law, Hughes taught at New York Law School with Woodrow Wilson, who would later defeat him for the Presidency. In 1905, he was appointed as counsel to the New York state legislative "Stevens Gas Commission", a committee investigating utility rates.: Retrieved 2011-12-17 His uncovering of corruption led to lower gas rates in New York City. In 1906, he was appointed to the "Armstrong Insurance Commission" to investigate the insurance industry in New York as a special assistant to U.S. Attorney General.

Chief Justice

Herbert Hoover, who had appointed Hughes’s son as Solicitor General in 1929, appointed Hughes Chief Justice of the United States on February 3, 1930. Hughes was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 13, 1930, and received commission the same day, serving in this capacity until 1941. Hughes replaced former President William Howard Taft, a fellow Republican who had also lost a presidential election to Woodrow Wilson (in 1912) and who, in 1910, had appointed Hughes to his first tenure on the Supreme Court.

Hughes’ appointment was opposed by progressive elements in both parties who felt that he was too friendly to big business. Idaho Republican William E. Borah said on the United States Senate floor that confirming Hughes would constitute "placing upon the Court as Chief Justice one whose views are known upon these vital and important questions and whose views, in my opinion, however sincerely entertained, are not which ought to be incorporated in and made a permanent part of our legal and economic system." Nonetheless Hughes was confirmed as Chief Justice with a vote of 52 to 26.