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HUGHES, Harold E. (1922-1996)


Posted By: Karon Velau (email)
Date: 6/12/2021 at 20:38:16

Harold Everett Hughes
(February 10, 1922–October 23, 1996)

Source: Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, University of Iowa Press Digital Edition
Harold Hughes was born on a farm near Ida Grove, Iowa. From an early age, he and his older brother Jesse trapped wild animals and sold their hides to supplement the family's meager income. An indifferent student, he attended the State University of Iowa for one year on a football scholarship before leaving to marry Eva Mercer, with whom he had three daughters. He later divorced Eva and remarried to Julianne Holm. Raised in a devoutly Methodist family, he renounced his religion when his brother was killed in a car accident. That and his inability to find steady work plunged Hughes into deep despair and heavy drinking. He served in the army in World War II, fought in Sicily and Italy, won several decorations, and was court-martialed for assaulting an officer. Back home in the fall of 1945, Hughes worked at various temporary jobs and continued to drink heavily. Finally, in 1952 he seriously contemplated suicide by gunshot but experienced a moment of spiritual enlightenment and dedicated himself to spiritual growth and to aiding alcoholics. Becoming manager of a trucking firm, he battled with the state Commerce Commission and organized several independent truckers into the Iowa Better Trucking Bureau. His election to the Commerce Commission in 1958 convinced him that he could best fulfill his mission by holding public office. His greatest achievement as senator was the enactment of the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act of 1970, which established the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. As a three-term governor, he built political coalitions across partisan, ethnic, geographical, and ideological lines. As a U.S. senator from 1969 to 1974, he sponsored the first federal programs for the prevention of alcoholism and the rehabilitation of alcoholics and was one of the first members of Congress to call for an end to the Vietnam War. At the height of his national reputation, Hughes resigned from the Senate to become a lay preacher and a leading light in the battle against addiction.


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