Thursday, November 14, 2019

William Hughes RIP


A lot of people have done some important things to silently help our cause, and William Hughes was one of them. Hughes was an Ocean City, N.J. neighbor – we lived on the same street – and a good friend over time.

When he stopped practicing law to become a Congrssman he gave his law books to a young lawyer who went to college with me, who opened a law office just down the street from my house – and when computers came in and the law books were obsolete, he threw Hughes’ old law books in the trash in the alley, where I retrieved them and kept them in my garage for many years.

As a Cape May County prosecutor Hughes ran as a liberal Democrat against the entrenched conservative Republican Sandman for the New Jersey Second Congressional district that ran along the South Jersey Shore from Cape May north to Long Beach Island. Sandman was one of the last defenders of President Nixon as he was going down the tube, and lost the election to Hughes, who kept the seat for two decades.
Hughes did a lot of good things in Congress, including writing and passing a clean water act that ended the dumping of medical wastes in the ocean, establishing the Jersey Pinelands national preserve, and passing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that requires all branches of government to make their records available to the public upon request – that is all branches of government except Congress itself.

When we began to lobby Congress to investigate the political assassinations of the Sixties, Hughes voted to establish the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) that limited its investigation to that of JFK and MLK. When the HSCA was disolved, Hughes knew of my interest and his brother Dan Hughes hand delivered the complete set of HSCA volumes published in support of its final report.

That was my reading for that summer, and I digested it all.

We found Rep. Hughes also had a sympathetic ear for our request for Congress to pass a new law releasing the HSCA records, and after the release of Oliver Stone’s film “JFK,” Hughes voted along with every other member of Congress to pass the JFK Act of 1992, establishing the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB), and ordering all of the records on the assassination of President Kennedy released by October 2017, twenty-five years after Congress passed the law and it was signed by President G. H. W. Bush.'

At the same time – in 1992, three groups got together at the Capitol Hill Quaker Center to form a new organization – the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), which would become the leading force for the release of the records. It included Jim Lesar’s Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC), Jim DiEugenio’s California JFK group and the Committee for an Open Archives (COA), that was established by John Judge and myself to lobby for the release of the assassination records.

It was Rep. Bill Hughes who arranged for COPA to hold their inagural press conference in the Capitol building in a room close to all of the action so we got some attention and publicity, and were recognzied by the ARRB as an important watchdog group that is mentioned prominatly in their final report.

As a working reporter at the Jersey Shore I had the opportunity to write many news articles about what Hughes was doing in Washington, and interviewed him on the record at least a half dozen times – the last time shortly after 9-11. It was after he had retired from Congress and had served as Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to Panama – seeing the turn over of the Panama Canal to the Panamanian people.

I occassionally used Hughes as a reference on applications, including one to the Ford Presidential Library in Michigan, who sent me a form reply denying my application, - until they got a letter from Hughes, and immediately switched their position – giving me what I had asked for.

Shortly after 9-1I, I met Hughes at Ready’s Grill on 8th Street, in our neighborhood, where I tape recorded our conversation over breakfast one morning. As he then taught a class in political science at nearby Stockton College, where there is now the Hughes Center for Public Policy, he invited me to sit in with him as he taught his first class after the 9-11 attacks.

From the interview and class I wrote a major article for the local paper on Hughes’ insight into national security at that important time.

God Bless Bill Hughes

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