Former Ambassador to Panama, 2nd District Congressman Hughes has Died


Former U.S. Rep. William Hughes of Ocean City, former ambassador to Panama, has died.

Mr. Hughes served as the 2nd District Democratic congressman from 1975 to 1995.

President Bill Clinton appointed him United States Ambassador to Panama, a post he held from 1995 to 1998.

An august presence who cut a dignified public figure and remained active in public life up to the time of his death, the namesake of Stockton University’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy was 87.

Born in Salem, N.J., Rutgers Law school grad Mr. Hughes served for ten years as first assistant prosecutor in Cape May. He first ran for Congress in 1970, losing to incumbent U.S. Rep. Charles Sandman, Jr., 52-48%. In 1974, he again ran against Sandman but won, 57-41%. He defeated Frank LoBiondo in his last race in 1992, before retiring from Congress in 1994.

A member of the House Judiciary Committee, he chaired the Subcommittee on Crime from 1981-1990, and the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and Hudicial Administration from 1991 to 1994. A son of coastal South Jersey, he also served on the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries.

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of William “Bill” J. Hughes, former U.S. Representative and Ambassador,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-2). “Mr. Hughes has fought for South Jersey for decades and it is an honor to have known him and followed in his footsteps. South Jersey and the world are better for having had him.”

Governor Phil Murphy issued a statement upon lerning of the congressman’s death.

“Congressman Bill Hughes represented his South Jersey district for 20 years, but he was nothing less than a New Jersey icon,” Murphy said. “He was a public school product and a Rutgers graduate two times over. As a prosecutor in Cape May, he fought to keep residents safe. As a respected Congressman, he fought to protect the Jersey Shore from polluters and the Pinelands from development. As U.S. Ambassador to Panama under President Clinton, he served our nation on the world stage. 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.

“Congressman Hughes will continue to inspire future leaders through the work of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University, perhaps the most fitting tribute to his tremendous legacy.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) issued the following statement:

“We have lost one of the most distinguished and accomplished public officials to serve New Jersey. Bill Hughes was devoted to the people he served in his congressional district, the State of New Jersey and the country.  He gained the respect and appreciation of all who worked with him and he was a model of bipartisanship who demonstrated that public service is a noble calling.

“I express my sincere condolences to his family and loved ones. We share in their loss but know that he will be remembered always for his achievements and for the example he set for others.”

State Senator Robert Andrzecjzak (D-1) likewise issued a statement.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Ambassador Bill Hughes,” said Andrzejczak. “After I became Senator, Ambassador Hughes became a mentor to me. I will forever cherish the discussions we had on public service, government, politics and his beloved Ocean City. He was a man of deep integrity and grace and I hope to live up to his standards as a public servant. My condolences, and the condolences of my Assembly colleagues Bruce Land and Matt Milam go out to the Ambassador’s family.”

For more on the death of U.S. Rep. Hughes, please go here.

First elected to Congress in 1974 as one of 48 new Democrats swept into the House of Representatives in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

His 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.

Ambassador Hughes’ wife of 61 years, Nancy Hughes, predeceased him in January of 2018. The couple had made their home in Ocean City for almost their entire adult lives. They are survived by his four children Lynne Hughes, Barbara Hughes Sullivan, Tama Hughes and William Hughes, Jr, 10 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. The late congressman’s son, attorney William Jr., ran unsuccessfully for the 2nd District Congressional seat previously held by his father.



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