Name: Hughes, Sarah Tilgham (1896-1985)

Historical Note:

Judge Sarah Tilgham Hughes was born on August 2, 1896 in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1917, she graduated from Goucher College with a degree in Biology. In 1922, she earned a law degree from George Washington University Law School. The same year, Judge Hughes moved to Dallas, Texas with her husband George Ernest Hughes. In 1923, she joined the firm of Priest, Herndon, and Ledbetter where she was a member till 1935.

In 1930, she was elected to her first term in the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat and at age 34, was the youngest woman elected to the legislature. She was reelected twice to the position and spearheaded numerous progressive legislation such as prison reform, public school land use, and women's property rights. In 1935, she became Texas' first female district judge when Governor James Allred appointed her to the 14th District Court in Dallas and was reelected to the position seven times. In 1952, she was national president of the Federation of Business and Professional Women's Club. The national organization nominated her for the position of Vice President on the Democratic Party ticket that year, but Judge Hughes withdrew her name.

In 1954, she successfully passed legislature that allowed women to serve on juries. In 1960, she was the co-chair of the Kennedy-Johnson campaign in Dallas County. In October 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Judge Hughes as Texas' first female federal judge. In 1963, she administered the Presidential oath of office to Lyndon B. Johnson after President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Judge Hughes' most well-known decisions as a federal judge include Shultz vs. Brookhaven General Hospital in 1969 (equal pay for equal work for women), Roe vs. Wade in 1970 (the legalization of abortion in the United States), and Taylor vs. Sterrett in 1972 (upgrading prisoner treatment in Dallas County jails). She was also involved with cases related to Billie Sol Estes and the Sharpstown stock fraud scandal. Additionally, she was a supporter of the United Nations.

In 1982, Jugde Hughes retired from the bench. She passed away on April 23, 1985 at the age of 88. She was interred at Hillcrest Mausoleum and Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas.

For more biographical information on Judge Sarah T. Hughes and to view her collection, visit the Judge Sarah T. Hughes Collection.

Records or Manuscript Collections Created by Hughes, Sarah Tilgham

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