The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes: The Politics of Civility

The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes: The Politics of Civility

The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes: The Politics of Civility

The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes: The Politics of Civility


The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes explores the influential public service of this two-term New Jersey governor. He was the only person in New Jersey history to serve as both governor and chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

This biography illuminates the governor's accomplishments between 1962 and 1970, including the creation of the Hackensack Meadowlands Commission, formation of the county college system, establishment of stringent antipollution laws, design of the public defender system, and the adoption of a New Jersey sales tax, as well as his pivotal role during the Newark riots. As chief justice, Hughes faced difficult issues: school funding, low and moderate income housing needs, freedom of speech, and his decision in the rightto-die case involving Karen Ann Quinlan. With a career characterized by liberal activism, Hughes also contributed nationally and internationally, from serving as host of the 1964 Democratic National Convention to monitoring elections in South Vietnam.

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.


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, and he was one of Hubert Humphrey’s finalists as vice-presidential running mate. Hughes was a close and trusted friend to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, leading to his involvement in the historic Glassboro Summit, during which President Johnson and Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin engaged in crucial diplomatic talks in the wake of the Six-Day War.

In addition to his governorship, Hughes’s multifaceted career included six years as chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, ten years as a superior court judge on both the trial court and the Appellate Division, four years as an Assistant United States Attorney, and many years in private practice. During his eighty-three years, he met hundreds of thousands of people, decided thousands of cases, signed innumerable bills into law, gave thousands of speeches, and appointed hundreds of judges, prosecutors, and other government officials. in addition to Johnson and Humphrey, Hughes forged relationships with many U.S. leaders including John F. and Robert F. Kennedy, and Nelson Rockefeller, and he traveled the world as a U.S. emissary, even monitoring the 1967 South Vietnam elections.

Born to a working-class family with strong commitments to the Democratic Party and the Catholic Church, Hughes did not particularly excel in school; however, he greatly expanded his knowledge as a result of his love of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.