Saturday, August 21, 2004

Another federal judge who was a Virginia newspaperman and Abingdon lawyer

Here is the FJC biographical listing for Robert William Hughes, who was once a lawyer here in Abingdon and was appointed by President U.S. Grant and served as judge of the E.D. Va. from 1874 to 1898 (and of whom I never heard anything before just now). He read law in 1846 and was the editor of a newspaper in Richmond during the Civil War. This list of federal government officials in 1893 indicates that he sat in Norfolk as the only judge of the E.D. Va. As listed here, he died in 1901 (at the age of 80) and was buried in Sinking Springs Cemetery in Abingdon.

His papers at William & Mary include, among other things, a receipt for the purchase of two slaves in 1862. It says here that he was "unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor of Virginia and for Congress, married Joseph E. Johnston's niece, who was the adopted daughter of John B. Floyd" and his papers at William & Mary also include correspondence with Benjamin F. Butler, Benjamin S. Ewell, U.S. Grant, Joseph E. Johnston, W.H.F. Lee, James Longstreet, and John S. Mosby. This page about his son notes that Judge Hughes was "one of the first prominent Virginians to turn Republican during the Reconstruction period," and that the son tried and failed to be appointed to succeed his father as federal judge in Norfolk. The son Robert M. Hughes, was born and raised in Abingdon, and served for many years on the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary.

This page from the Booker T. Washington papers states that "among the Southern gentlemen present" for the graduation exercises at the Hampton Institute in 1875 was "Judge R.W. Hughes of Richmond," and here it says that of his remarks on that occasion, "Judge Hughes, who was once a rabid fire-eater, said it was gratifying to put to rest the old belief that one race was inferior in capacity to the other."

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