Harry Roe Hughes, who won an upset victory in the 1978 Democratic primary for governor after being derisively referred to as “a lost ball in high grass,” died Wednesday, according to his family.
Hughes, who was 92, was elected to the House of Delegates, representing Caroline County, in 1954 and the state Senate in 1958, representing Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties.
He was appointed Maryland’s first Secretary of Transportation in 1971 by then Governor Marvin Mandel, but resigned six years later in a dispute over the award of contracts for construction of the Baltimore subway. The next year he ran for governor, defeating the heavily favored Lieutenant Governor Blair Lee III in the primary and Republican John Glenn Beall Jr. in the general election.
He served two terms as Maryland’s 57th governor from 1979 to 1987.
As governor, he championed Chesapeake Bay restoration programs, signing into law the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, which set into motion the bay restoration efforts. Late in his second term, he managed to steer Maryland through the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s.
Harry Hughes was born November 13, 1926, and grew up in Denton on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He was a baseball star who signed as pitcher with a New York Yankees farm team. He served in the Navy in World War II and went to the University of Maryland afterward, graduating in 1949. He married Patricia Donoho in 1950 and graduated from George Washington University law School in 1952.
He returned to Denton, where he practiced law until his entry into public life.
Immediately upon learning of the former governor’s death, Governor Larry Hogan ordered Maryland flags flown at half-staff until sunset on the day of his internment.
He called Governor Hughes “a longtime friend and Maryland legend whom I deeply admired” and said his service to the state and the nation “leave a legacy behind that will be forever remembered.”
Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford said in a statement that Governor Hughes “served the people of Maryland with distinction, and was a fierce protector of our Chesapeake Bay.”
The Hughes family said funeral arrangements will be announced later this week.