Selection of the Month

Robert E. Hughes Papers

May, 2018
Center for Pacific Northwest Studies
Among Heritage Resources holdings are items and collections reflecting ways in which different groups and individuals have sought to inspire and effect lasting social change. Recently processed and available through the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, the papers of Robert E. Hughes document the remarkable work, commitment and achievements of a Methodist minister and life-long civil rights and social justice activist.

Born in Gadsen, Texas, Robert E. Hughes (1928-2012) was appointed the first Executive Director of the Alabama Council on Human Relations, and was deeply involved in the South’s civil rights struggle. In 1960, Hughes served jail time for refusing to reveal information about other activists: he was briefly expelled from the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church in consequence, and reinstated on condition of accepting an overseas transfer. Hughes and his wife Dorothy served as missionaries in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) before returning to the U.S. with their family in 1966.

Following his years abroad, Reverend Hughes embarked upon a 27-year career with the Department of Justice's Community Relations Service (CRS). In 1975, he was appointed a Mediator with the CRS’ Northwest Regional Branch, based in Seattle, Washington. Papers housed at WWU relate primarily to Hughes’ work for the CRS in the Pacific Northwest from the mid-1970s onwards, with compelling documentation both of human rights concerns and related activism and responses in the region.

The collection documents issues including the rights of indigenous peoples, policing and justice issues, race-related conflict and efforts to combat white supremacism and the militia movement. In addition to materials from Hughes’ work with the CRS, the collection includes substantial files from his post-retirement activism. The Robert E. Hughes Papers were donated by Mrs. Dorothy Hughes and are open to the public for research: for more information, please contact

All images courtesy of the Robert E. Hughes Papers, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Western Libraries Heritage Resources.

Ruth Steele, Archivist, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies