Unscared and unbought Charles E. Hughes, 1927-1978 “Rep. Charles Hughes, Sherman”so his name appeared often in the Observer of the 1950s, and from the start, when it featured prominently on the roster of the ’51 session’s Gas House Gang, it was identified with the right side of the big legislative fights of his time: against measures like one that would have given the Texas House its own un-American activities committee; for laws to force lobbyists out of the Capitol woodwork and onto a public register; for bills like his own 1957 industrial safety proposal. Charles Hughes died in August; here, he is remembered by D. B. Hardeman, another who fought the people’s fight in those days \(Obs., By D. B. Hardeman Washington, D.C. In January, 1951, I called Charles E. Hughes in Sherman: “Charlie,” I said, “I haven’t met you, but we are going to be in the Legislature together. You and I are both political protgs of Bob Slagle [a Sam Rayburn associate and long-time political power in Grayson County]. Would you like to ride to Austin with me?” That ride began one of the richest, most enlarging friendships of a long lifetime. Charlie and I became more brothers than friends, living together, owning a house jointly, traveling together, fighting side-by-side in the Texas House of Representatives, arguing, disagreeing, chiding each other’s eccentricities, withalways–much laughter. In 1952 I was defeated for re-election. I didn’t cry; Charlie did. For almost five decades I have watched the Texas Legislature as employee, newspaperman, and for four years, a House member. The membership has had its share of crooks, buffoons, and corporate slaves, but far more important, it has mirrored the best of Texasmen and women who loved their country more than their careers, who came to give all, not to get. I would put Charlie Hughes among the true giants of the Texas legislative history I have witnessed. Hundreds have served well, bravely, intelligently. But one of the most distinctive qualities of Charlie’s career was that after ten long years of legislative service, his courage and idealism remained as unblemished and contagious at the end as when he began. The slow, sure stain of cynicismsometimes corruptionthat marks many who stay in office a long time never touched Charlie. Yet as a lawmaker he was an adept. He was one of Sam Rayburn’s most admiring young constituents, and Rayburn reciprocated the admiration. \(Charlie’s great ambition was to succeed Rayburn There’s a Rayburnism that fit Charlie: “you can’t scare him and you can’t buy him.” He deliberately chose the difficult path in Texas politics; he cast his lot for all the years of his career with those who needed help. With his bubbling optimism. he knew the life of the “little guy” could be improved if public officials had the guts to bring it about. In legislative halls he was a smiling but formidable opponent. His mind was quick, resilient, well-trained. He was a very able lawyer. As a speaker he was eloquent, sharp in repartee, wellinformed on his subject. And he was a tiger in debate, loving the rough-andtumble of floor action. Moreover, he was dogged. I remember one bank escheat bill which he labored for over an entire decadewith success. Charlie was also a man of willful eccentricities, which were the butt of endless kidding, in itself a measure of his popularity. One of his least-appreciated habits was his insistence on sleeping with the radio going full-blast by his bed. That his devoted, no-nonsense wife Wilma adjusted to this ordeal was a tribute to her adaptability. He undoubtedly was the most restless of human beings. Dropping by for a visit, he would mix a drink, then pace the floor like a caged lion until he left. This nervous energy found an outlet now and then in unexpected enthusiasms. In the days of 78-rpm phonograph records, Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded a transcription of Debussy’s piano piece, “The Engulfed Cathedral.” Charlie fell madly in love with it, and would play it all evening long. He literally wore out several recordsmine, and others we found late r. Perhaps most unforgettable was his irrepressible feistinesshis simple confidence that he could do anything. It was not obnoxious arrogance, but rather the cockiness of a Winston Churchill. We went to Colorado one winter, and after half a day of skiing lessons, Charlie readily confessed that he was going to be a great skier. Charlie Hughes, circa 1952 I saw the feistiness give way only once. Dolph Briscoe invited some fellow legislators to his Catarina Ranch. There Charlie killed his first deer, and of course bragged to one and all of his expertise. \(In turn, we unanimously insisted that bitter blue norther blew in, Charlie and I started north in my old car, which had no heater, with the luckless deer strapped across the hood. Exhausted, cold, miserable, we reached his parents’ home about 2 a.m. We unfastened the frozen deer, and struggled to get him on the back porch; a beaten-down Charlie said, in little-boy fashion, “What am I going to do with him now?” Charlie did every public job well lawyer, legislator, political official, judicial official. He never let his people down. He was wonderful company always. In 28 years there was never an ugly word nor a moment of mutual suspicion between us. Charlie always treated people right; I suspect he could have been reelected from Grayson County for life. Nearly 300 years ago John Bunyan wrote in Pilgrim’s Progress some lines worthy of Charlie Hughes: “It was noised abroad that Mr. Valiant-for-Truth was taken with a summons. . . . Then said he, ‘I am going to my Father’s and although with great difficulty I am got hither I do not repent me of all the troubles I have been to to arrive where I am . . . . ” ‘My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me, that I have fought his battles who now will be my rewarder.’ “So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.” 0 il311111 , am& THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17
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