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Judge Sarah T. Hughes Papers, 1910-1982 | Manuscripts

Collection Overview

Title: Judge Sarah T. Hughes Papers, 1910-1982Add to your cart.
ID: 01/HM.58
Extent: 79.0 Boxes
Arrangement: At the series level, the materials in this collection are arranged according to the subject matter and intellectual contents of the materials: 1) Personal Files; 2) Organization Files; 3) Political Files; and 4) Judicial Files. The collection is further divided into subseries (boxes) based on the type and/or content of the materials.
Languages: English, Spanish;Castilian

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Abstract

This collection consists of primarily textual materials documenting the legal, political, judicial, and activist career of Sarah Tilghman Hughes (1896-1985). Among her accomplishments, Hughes practiced law in Dallas, served in the Texas House of Representatives (1931-1935), was appointed as the first female state district judge in Texas (1935-1961), was the first woman to serve as a federal district judge in Texas (1961-1975; senior status until 1982), and championed various human and women's rights causes. Notably, as a federal district judge, Judge Hughes administered the presidential oath of office to Lyndon B. Johnson aboard Air Force One following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963.

It should be noted that the bulk of the collection consists of files - including correspondence, minutes, notes, reports, publications, and other printed materials - documenting Judge Hughes's involvement in various state, national, and international organizations.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection consists of materials documenting the legal, political, judicial, and activist career of Sarah Tilghman Hughes (1896-1985) (see Collection Historical Note below for further biographical information).

The contents of the materials in the collection represent significant topics and events in Judge Hughes's career and lifetime, including her three terms (1931-1935) in the Texas House of Representatives (one of the first women elected to the state legislature following the passage of the 19th Amendment); her appointment in 1935 to the 14th District Court of Texas in Dallas (as the first female state district judge in Texas); her membership in and term (1950-1952) as President of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs; her appointment in 1961 to the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas (as the first female federal district judge in Texas); the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and subsequent swearing-in of Lyndon B. Johnson as President (conducted by Judge Hughes); and Judge Hughes's involvement in various other issues including human rights, treatment of prisoners, women's rights, and female equality.

It should be noted that the bulk of the collection consists of files - including correspondence, minutes, notes, reports, publications, and other printed materials - documenting Judge Hughes's involvement in various organizations including the International, National, and Texas federations of the Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the Dallas Bar Association, the Dallas United Nations Association, the United Nations, and the World Peace Through Law Center.

The materials in the collection are largely textual, including correspondence, memoranda,  typescripts, publications, speeches, court case papers, legal documents, notes, reports, travel itineraries, appointment books, meeting minutes and agendas, clippings, and related printed materials. Ephemera such as pamphlets, brochures, flyers, and certificates are also included. The collection contains several boxes of assorted photographs and portraits of Judge Hughes and other political figures, as well as photograph albums.

Collection Historical Note

Sarah T. Hughes, jurist, politician, and feminist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on August 2, 1896, daughter of James Cooke and Elizabeth (Haughton) Tilghman. Her parents were descended from colonial families that immigrated to North America in the 1660s. She attended public schools in Baltimore and in 1917 graduated from Goucher College with an A.B. in biology. After two years of teaching science at Salem Academy, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she enrolled in the George Washington University Law School, from which she received an LL.B. degree in 1922. During this period she was a member of the Washington, D.C., police force, a job in which she worked primarily with juveniles. She married George Ernest Hughes of Palestine, Texas, a classmate, on March 13, 1922. The same year, the Hugheses moved to Dallas, where her husband began a private law practice. In 1923 Mrs. Hughes joined the firm of Priest, Herndon, and Ledbetter. She remained with the firm until 1935, when Governor James Allred appointed her to the bench of the Fourteenth District Court in Dallas. She was the first woman state district judge in Texas. In 1936 she was elected in her own right and was reelected on six subsequent occasions, the last in 1960.

Before her appointment as district judge, Sarah Hughes had served three terms in the Texas House of Representatives. She was among the first women elected to the legislature after the granting of woman suffrage and was active in debates over major issues of the day-oil proration laws, penal-system reform, and public school land usage. In 1933 newspaper reporters in Austin named her the state's most effective representative. In 1946 she was beaten in the Democratic primary when she ran for the United States Congress. She claimed her liberal views caused her defeat. In 1952 she received a token nomination for the vice presidency of the United States at the Democratic national convention but withdrew her name before the vote was taken. At the time, she was national president of the Business and Professional Women's Club. She was also defeated when she ran for the Texas Supreme Court in 1958. In 1961 she asked Senator Ralph Yarborough and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson to recommend her for the federal judgeship of the northern district of Texas. Her age, sixty-five, caused the American Bar Association and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to oppose her selection. At her request, the Business and Professional Women's Club undertook a letter-writing campaign in support of her candidacy, and Yarborough, Johnson, and Speaker of the House Samuel T. Rayburn lobbied effectively on her behalf. When President John F. Kennedy appointed her in October 1961, she became the first woman to serve as a federal district judge in Texas.

Judge Hughes was known for her speedy and impartial administration of justice. While serving the Fourteenth Judicial District of Texas she played an important part in the construction of Dallas's first juvenile detention center (1950) and in securing an amendment to the Texas constitution allowing women to serve as jurors (1953). Among her most well-known decisions as a federal judge were Roe v. Wade, 1970 (the legalization of abortion in the United States), Shultz v. Brookhaven General Hospital, 1969 (equal pay for equal work for women), and Taylor v. Sterrett, 1972 (upgrading prisoner treatment in the Dallas County jail). She was also involved with several cases related to Billie Sol Estes and to the Sharpstown stock fraud scandal.

She became a national figure as a result of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, after which she administered the oath of office to Lyndon Johnson aboard Air Force One at Love Field. She said she liked to believe that President Johnson chose her for the honor because of their friendship but was realistic enough to know that his feelings towards other federal judges in Dallas made her the most acceptable choice.

Judge Hughes and her husband were Episcopalians. He died on June 1, 1964, after many years (1928–62) as an attorney for the United States Veterans Administration in Dallas. They had no children. After several years of illness, Judge Hughes died on April 23, 1985. She was interred at Hillcrest Mausoleum and Memorial Park in Dallas.

Source: Robert S. La Forte, "HUGHES, SARAH TILGHMAN," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhu68), accessed September 06, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Administrative Information

Repository: Manuscripts
Access Restrictions: This collection is not restricted.
Use Restrictions: Reproduction and publication of materials in this collection are subject to the policies of the UNT Archives and Rare Books department. Copyright restrictions may apply.
Physical Access Note: Collection is housed in the UNT Archives and Rare Book department vault. The UNT Archives and Rare Book department requires a 24 hour notice from patrons in order to page materials from vault and ready the materials for use. Please contact the UNT Archives and Rare Book department for further information.
Related Materials:

The following sources provide additional information on Judge Sarah T. Hughes’s personal and professional life.

University of North Texas Libraries - Archives and Rare Books Department:

CONSTANCE DUDLEY PAPERS (AR0729) - http://findingaids.library.unt.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=62&q=dudley

GWEN GRAUL PAPERS (AR0161) - http://findingaids.library.unt.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=58&q=graul

NORTH TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY ORAL HISTORY COLLECTION

    Number 27

        Interview with Judge Sarah T. Hughes

            15 January 1969

            7 February 1969

            28 February 1969

            21 March 1969

            11 April 1969

            16 May 1969

            27 May 1969

    Number 489

        Interview with Judge Sarah T. Hughes  

            23 August 1979

Preferred Citation: Judge Sarah T. Hughes Collection, University of North Texas Archives and Rare Books

Box and Folder Listing

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Series 7: Audio/VisualAdd to your cart.
 
Box 1908A: Film Reels/AudioAdd to your cart.
 
Barcode: 641360
Folder 1: Swearing-in CeremonyAdd to your cart.
 
Folder 2: Swearing-in Ceremony, Dallas Courthouse, 1961Add to your cart.
 
Box 1908B: Hughes Audio Tapes/VHSAdd to your cart.
 
Barcode: 706230

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