Remembering Harry Hughes
Washington College lost another longtime friend this week. Former Maryland Governor Harry Hughes, an environmentalist who received the College’s Award for Excellence in 1980, died March 13 at age 92.
Harry R. Hughes, the two-term Democratic governor whose Eastern Shore roots tied him especially close to Maryland’s oldest chartered college, was part of Washington College’s heyday back in the 1980s. He participated in its bicentennial celebrations, shared with the stage with Lady Bird Johnson, and lent his support to the campus’s physical transformation that occurred under the presidency of Douglass Cater.
In 1980, Washington College honored its native son with the Award for Excellence, recognizing his commitment to public service and his absolute integrity as a statesman.
Even then, the health of the Chesapeake Bay was of paramount importance to him. During his governorship, in 1983, he signed into law the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, used to guide the restoration of the nation’s largest estuary. After leaving office in 1987, he served as a member of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting public awareness, restoration, and protection of the resources of the Chesapeake Bay.
During a 2014 interview with the Capital News Service, Hughes said saving the Chesapeake Bay was still one of the state’s biggest issues. He implemented new environmental policies by establishing the Critical Areas Act, which protected land within 1,000 feet of tidal waters or tidal wetlands from development. He also appropriated $37 million for restoration projects while banning the catching of rockfish until the population was stable.
Hughes helped found Queenstown’s Center for Agro-Ecology in 1999, which was renamed the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology. He served as president of the Board of Directors until 2018 when he became president emeritus.
“The passing of Governor Harry Hughes is a great loss to our state and the Chesapeake Bay region,” Hughes Center’s Board President Ed Fry told a Star-Democrat reporter upon learning of his death. “His tireless dedication to building consensus among varying stakeholder interests and finding real solutions was a hallmark of his personal character and his style of leadership. We send our thoughts and prayers to his family during this difficult time.”
Before his career in politics, Hughes, who grew up in Denton, played minor league baseball in the Eastern Shore Baseball League, starring as a pitcher with the Easton Yankees. He maintained his love of the game throughout his lifetime and he took great pleasure in moderating a conversation with Rick Dempsey at Washington College in 2012.