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He was the tenth of eleven children of Andrew Jackson Hughes and Martha Jane Gold Hughes. He received both his undergraduate degree (1907) and master's degree (1909) in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Hell-bent fer Heaven (1924) was performed 122 times at the Klaw Theater (which later became the Avon and then CBS Theater #2). The play starred multiple Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner George Abbott (author of The Pajama Game, Fiorello, and Damn Yankees) and Clara Blandick (who played Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz). It was made into a movie in 1926.
Other noted authors of plays and friends at the Klaw stage during Hughes's time were George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. Hughes was a professor at Columbia University. A UNC graduate, he returned often to NC to speak and provide insight on Broadway. His detailed correspondence from New York to North Carolina and his mother provides a wealth of information to this day for Silver Screen researchers and archivists at the University of North Carolina.
In 1930 he married Janet Ranney Cool. The marriage produced a daughter, Ann Ranney Hughes. During the First World War, he served as an Army captain. He and his family divided their time between their home in New York City and their farm in West Cornwall, Connecticut.