July 12, 2019

Senate Decades Series – 1960s Senator Harry Roe Hughes

A leading figure in the Maryland Senate over the entirety of the 1960s, future Governor Harry Roe Hughes would serve in the body from 1959-1970. During his tenure in the Senate, he would distinguish himself and go on to serve as both the Chairman of the Finance Committee and as Senate Majority Leader from 1965-1970.

A native Eastern Shoreman, Hughes was born in Easton on November 13, 1926 where he would initially build his life and career. He would serve in the United States Navy Air Corps in World War II then return home to the University of Maryland where he would receive his undergraduate degree and pitch on the college’s baseball team.

Hughes would further his education and receive his law degree from the George Washington University School of Law in 1952. Just two short years later, he would begin a career in public service that would last some 32 years.

Governor Marvin Mandel would appoint Hughes as Maryland Transportation Secretary in 1971. He would serve as Maryland Transportation Secretary until his resignation in 1977 when he would subsequently pursue the governorship in 1978.

Widely remembered as Maryland’s 57th Governor, Hughes guided the State in the Governor’s Mansion from 1979-1987. Known as a principled moderate, Hughes took pride in his ability to build consensus. While classically low-key, Hughes proved a steady hand in the Governor’s Office throughout the majority of the 1980s and distinguished himself as a true champion of the environment and of the Chesapeake Bay.

Upon his passing in March 2019, his biographer John W. Frece summed up the legacy of Governor and Leader Hughes quite succinctly in a guest commentary piece for Maryland Matters. He said: “Though few Marylanders may realize it, their lives are better off today because former Maryland Governor Harry R. Hughes, who died March 13 at the age of 92, was a bit of a policy wonk with a decided bent toward fairness and equity.”

Before all of his accomplishments as Governor, however, Hughes would serve with distinction and is now remembered fondly for his tenure in the Maryland Senate over the tumultuous decade that was the 1960s.

Maryland Governor Harry Hughes speaks at reactivation ceremonies for the 29th Infantry Division (Light).