William Hughes, a former New Jersey congressman and ambassador to Panama under Bill Clinton, died at his home on Wednesday at age 87, Politico reported Thursday. No cause of death was given.
“Hughes’ passing will leave a huge void in the lives of all those he touched during his long and honorable career,” the former congressman’s family said in a statement.
Hughes, a Democrat, was elected to Congress in 1974 and served 10 terms for New Jersey’s 2nd district. He chaired the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime for nine of those years.
He retired in 1995 before being appointed to the role of ambassador to Panama by then-President Bill Clinton later that year, a position he served in until 1998. Prior to serving in Congress, Hughes also worked as a prosecutor in Cape May, New Jersey.
Champion of the environment
Hughes fought for environmental priorities while in Congress, according to Politico. Some bills he helped pass included banning ocean dumping and preventing the building of floating nuclear power plants off the New Jersey coast.
Restoring rail service between Atlantic City and Philadelphia was also something Hughes championed while in Congress. Two South Jersey installations are named after Hughes: the William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City’s airport — an FAA test facility — and the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University.
Current New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called Huges a “New Jersey icon.”
“[My wife] Tammy and I are saddened to learn of his passing, and send our condolences to his children and their families, and to all who knew him and called him a friend,” Murphy said.
A lasting legacy
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch was a longtime family friend of Hughes and his family, according to The Washington Post. During a speech at the public policy center named after Hughes at Stockton University, Gorsuch described Hughes as “a model of civility and statesmanship.”
The bipartisanship evident in the life of Hughes is sorely missed in Washington today. It’s hard to imagine any Democrat saying something complimentary about Gorsuch or Kavanaugh on the House floor.
If the Democrats serving now in Congress worked as hard to advance legislation that would benefit their states or the country as a whole as they do voting to impeach Trump or block his border wall, we could probably get a lot more done as a country.
Hughes is survived by four children, 10 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife.