Charles. Evans. Hughes. Okay American!
He was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, quit to run for president, came back to become Chief Justice. Our new series – Readers Requests, takes us on the journey of Charles Evans Hughes.
Charles Evans Hughes resigned as Chief Justice of the United States on this day, June 30, 1941.
Who is Charles Evans Hughes? Great question! And thanks to our new series, #ReadersRequest – you're going to find out!
Nothing is better than telling me what to write. Requests have been pouring in over the last few weeks, and by "pouring in," I mean two; but if you look at the overall subscription numbers, two is pretty substantial.
Okay, let's get into it.
Charles was born during the Civil War in upstate New York, in a small town tucked inside the border from Vermont. His family moved to Newark, New Jersey, then corrected that mistake and settled in Brooklyn, where the young Chuck excelled at learning stuff.
He attended Colgate, then Brown, then went on to law school at Columbia. When he graduated, he scored the highest on the bar exam in that state. See what moving from Newark does to one's intellect?
Fighter of Corruption
Hughes built on that solid foundation of brainpower to become a wildly successful lawyer, even at a young age. A judge recognized his wizardry in court and suggested to the Governor of New York to put Charles in Charge of a corruption case involving a gas company that controlled…well - gas.
Hughes was able to identify how the company fleeced people, turned that information over to the state general assembly, and in the end, new regulations were passed, and gas prices went down. Yay Chuck!
Time to Run for Office
This made Hughes hugely popular. In 1906 President Teddy Roosevelt recruited Hughes to run for Governor of New York against the Hearst dynasty. Hughes won by campaigning on eight-hour workdays and ending child labor.
Can you believe we worked longer than eight hours as a standard in this country? And working back then was building stuff in factories, not sitting at your desk during the day yelling at people on Twitter in between group texts with your work gal-pals.
Hughes would go on to win reelection and established himself as a formidable member of the Republican Party.
In 1910, President Taft nominated Hughes to the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice and was unanimously confirmed.
It was the court where Hughes built his legacy as an American. He wrote decisions on Congress regulating interstate commerce, which sounds important. He also voted in favor of civil rights, like saying black rail workers deserved the same protections as their white counterparts. Chuck…my man.
In the 1912 presidential election, Taft and Roosevelt split the Republican votes, allowing Woodrow Wilson to slide into the White House. This was considered an upset because the Republican party was likable back then and had captured the White House consistently since Lincoln first took them there in 1860.
By the time 1916 rolls around, Hughes looks to be the guy to remove and replace Wilson. That June, in the Chicago Coliseum, Hughes captured the nomination on the third ballot, becoming the only sitting Supreme Court Justice to win a presidential nomination.
Charles quickly accepted, turned in his resignation with Wilson with the note, "I'm going to kick your butt in November."*
Since you have never heard of President Charles Evans Hughes, you know that Wilson was reelected. He won by sweeping the entire south, which is all you have to know about what type of support Wilson carried in 1916.
Keeping Chuck Around
Chuck returned to private practice. Amusingly, Wilson asked him to investigate a bunch of stuff, to which Hughes agreed. He also got involved in a variety of projects – Hughes even represented Socialists!
Warren Harding won the presidency in 1920 and named Hughes Secretary of State, where he helped usher a treaty that scaled down the navies of the US, Britain, and Japan. He left the Coolidge administration in 1925 and returned to private practice. Interestingly, he was a keynote speaker for the National Can We Stop Lynching Black People Conference. **
I usually would veer into a rant advocating for Critical Race Theory, but this is a Readers Request piece, and I must stay on the subject!
More Court Time
Hoover was president in 1930, and Chief Justice Taft was ill. However, Hughes was viewed less of a progressive and more of a conservative, which allowed Hoover to name him the 11th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court United States. Hughes secured the nomination, but it wasn’t unanimous like before.
For the next 11 years, most of them under the OTHER Roosevelt’s term in office, Chuck navigated the court. The Hughes court had three consistent voting blocks, two with cool nicknames. There were the Four Horsemen, justices who were conservatives and struck down FDR's New Deal programs. On the other side, the Three Musketeers, progressives who side with these socialist, communist, obviously anti-American poison plans. Hughes and another Justice named Roberts split their time in each camp, depending on what issues faced the court. ***
Anyway, in 1941 Hughes was like, "I'm done." He resigned, retired, and died at the age of 86 in 1945. Two years before this passed.
Now, how crazy is this dude's LinkedIn profile?
Charles Evans Hughes
Jurist | Statesman | Progressive Conservative
Chief Justice of the United States
Secretary of State
Associate Supreme Court Justice
Governor of New York
Who in American history has a career like this? William Taft comes the closest, having won the presidency. But the fact a guy resigned from the Supreme Court to run for president, only to lose and then return as Chief Justice is a fantastic turn of events.
And thanks to readers who request stuff like this, now you know who Charles Evans Hughes is.
Thanks, reader who requested this. Who may also happen to be my brother.
Do you have a US history subject you would like me to write about? Shoot an email to management, and let's get it on the books.
* Probably didn’t happen.
** Just as a reminder, we still do not have a federal law prohibiting lynching.
*** Current Chief Justice John Roberts and his decisions within the Roberts Court sound similar to Hughes. Keep an ear out, okay?