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American flagThis article is a condensed version of the author’s Charles Evans Hughes Lecture, delivered for the New York County Lawyers Association on Feb. 9, 2021. The full text of the lecture can be found on the NYCLA website. The Fordham Law School website also contains the full text and the audio recording of the lecture.

Charles Evans Hughes is a towering figure in American Law. Born in Glens Falls, N.Y. in 1862 to a Welsh immigrant preacher, he started his legal career at Chamberlain, Carter & Hornblower, becoming a named partner four years later in 1884. The firm, now known as Hughes, Hubbard and Reed, remains one of our nation’s leading law firms and has sponsored NYCLA’s Hughes lecture since its inception in 1948.

Hughes’ career in both private practice and public service was built on a reputation for independence and integrity. He was elected Governor of New York in 1906 and then appointed to the Supreme Court. After serving as an associate justice for six years, he resigned to run for President. While he never made it to the White House, he did become the eighth president of NYCLA—a post he left when returned to public service as Secretary of State. After another stint in private practice, he returned to government, first as Solicitor General, and then from 1930 to 1941 as Chief Justice of the United States.

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