• America Guillen

Sarah T. Hughes: A tribute

Updated: Jan 21


Sarah Tilghman Hughes, a lawyer by trade, became the first woman federal judge in Texas. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on August 2, 1896. Hughes faced a lot of different obstacles while growing up. She was an intelligent young girl who always saw the good in extremely bad situations. She tried her best to be good in athletics and academics.


The Honorable Hughes attended Baltimore’s Goucher College—an all-women’s college—where she earned a degree in biology. After graduating, she taught science for two years in an academy. But this would not be her ultimate career choice. She later enrolled at George Washington University Law School to pursue her dream job as a lawyer. Following her enrollment at GWU law school, she then received an LL.B. degree in 1922. She was determined to become an attorney.


While in law school, she met George Hughes. They married in 1922. Both left Washington D.C and moved to Dallas Texas. After arriving in the Lone Star state, The Honorable Hughes struggled to find a job in the legal field despite her qualifications. Her husband did not struggle finding a position as an attorney. Instead, The Honorable Hughes was hired only as a receptionist for a law firm. Overtime, she moved her way up from this role into a position as an attorney. Even though it was hard for her to receive the recognition she duly deserved, she loved law.


Despite having trouble with starting her legal career, The Honorable Hughes ran for Texas state legislature and was elected. She was inspired by many hard-working women. While in the legislature, The Honorable Hughes fought for women to serve on juries in Texas, a right that was not available that that time. Unfortunately, she was unsuccessful. However, in 1954, her initial legislative proposal finally gave women that right long after her time in the legislature.


In 1935, Governor James V. Allred appointed Hughes to serve as a preside over the 14th District Court in Dallas County. This was an amazing opportunity for her, becoming the first woman in Texas to serve as a district judge. In this role, she secured the first juvenile detention center in Dallas. Hughes ran for state supreme court. Although the race was close, she was short 14,000 votes. This failure did not let her stop there.


In 1961, she was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the United States Northern District of Texas, a federal judicial seat. Following JFK’s assassination in Dallas, The Honorable Hughes gave the presidential oath of office to Lyndon Baines Johnson aboard Air Force One (pictured below). She served as a federal district judge until her death in 1985. The Honorable Hughes was interred at Hillcrest Mausoleum and Memorial Park in Dallas.



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