Ambassador and former U.S. Congressman William (Bill) J. Hughes, Sr. of Ocean City, NJ, passed away on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at his home. He was 87 years old. Born on October 17, 1932 in Penns Grove, New Jersey, where he graduated from Penns Grove High School in 1955. Thereafter, Bill attended Rutgers University on a scholarship and then Rutgers Law School – Camden. In his second year of law school, he met the love of his life, Nancy Gibson. The two of them would spend hours talking, and dancing at the Almonesson Lake Dance Hall and making their plans to realize their dreams together. Bill and Nancy married in 1956, and then moved Ocean City, N.J. after he finished law school. There, they spent the rest of their lives and raised their four children, and becoming a part of the community.
Bill became an associate at the law offices of French B. Loveland, where he eventually became the President of Loveland Hughes and Garrett. In addition to his law practice, Bill also became the First Assistant Prosecutor in Cape May County, where he served in that capacity for almost ten years.
Bill was first elected to Congress in1974, and reelected to his seat, often by large margins, until he retired in 1995. He served in that position longer than any other previous incumbent.
During his tenure in Congress, Hughes was a member of the House Judiciary Committee, where he chaired the Subcommittee on Crime (1981–1990) and the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and Judicial Administration (1991–1994). Hughes also served on the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, which had jurisdiction over numerous issues of importance to his coastal district.
As chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime (1981–1990), Hughes successfully pushed for the enactment of numerous anti-crime bills including the Hughes Amendment to ban fully automatic firearms, and additional measures that became the government’s principal means to combat drug trafficking, money laundering, terrorism, child pornography and computer fraud.
Other major legislative achievements include his successful 1975 amendment to ban ocean dumping of sewage sludge, and enactment of legislation to preserve the New Jersey Pinelands. He also served as the Chairman of the Select Committee on Aging.
After leaving Congress, Hughes was appointed by President Bill Clinton as United States Ambassador to Panama, a post he held until October, 1998 leading up to the historic turnover of the Panama Canal to Panamanian control.
The William J. Hughes Technical Center in Pomona, was named in honor of the late Congressman in recognition of his efforts to keep the facility in Southern New Jersey and build it into nation’s premier air transportation system laboratory. The William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University is also named in honor of the Ambassador in recognition of his distinguished career of public service. Bill and Nancy were also honored to have the Performing Arts Center named after them at Ocean City High School.
He is predeceased by his wife of 61 years, Nancy L. Hughes (nee Gibson); his sisters Charlotte Kieffer and Paula Green; and his parents William Wesley Hughes and Pauline Hughes Mehaffey. Bill and Nancy are survived by his four children Lynne Hughes (Doug Walker), Barbara Hughes Sullivan (Barry), Tama Hughes (Dante Ceniccola), and William Hughes, Jr (Stephanie); grandchildren Barry Sullivan (Maura), Brendan Sullivan (Allyson), Bryan Sullivan (Christine), Kristin Cennicola-Campos (Alex), Anna Ceniccola, William J. Hughes, III, Charles Hughes, Patrick Hughes, Ryan Hughes, and Madeline Walker de Hughes; as well as four great grandchildren, Madison and Olivia Sullivan, Jackson and Matthew Campos. Bill is also survived by his loving brother and best friend Daniel V. Hughes. Jackie’s passing will leave a huge void in the lives of all those who he touched during his long and honorable life and career.
His Funeral Service will be offered Monday, November 4, 2019 at 11 o’clock from Holy Trinity Episcopal Church 2998 Bay Ave., Ocean City, NJ, where friends may call from 10 o’clock until the time of the service. Friends may also call between 2-5pm on Sunday, November 3, 2019, at the Ocean City Tabernacle, 550 Wesley Ave., Ocean City, NJ.
The family requests that any memorial gifts made in memory of Bill’s life be directed to:
- Bill and Nancy Hughes Performing Arts Center Fund, P.O Box 507, Ocean City, NJ; or
- William J Hughes Center for Public Policy, https://stockton.edu/hughes-center/index.html