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James M. Hughes

James M. Hughes Obituary
James M. Hughes

Silver Spring, MD - James Malcolm Hughes of Silver Spring, Maryland, died peacefully on July 11, 2019, at 75 years of age, surrounded by his family as they shared laughter and memories. James will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 52 years, Sandra and his children, Shannon (Craig) Allan, Joshua (Ayako) Hughes, and Brandy Freeman. James will also be fondly remembered by his grandson Seamus Freeman, his sisters, Ginny and Pat, his brothers-in-law Andy, John, Jack, and Ed and his sisters- in-law, Deborah, Laura, and Joy.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, James' life would take him on a journey from his city boy roots to the wide open spaces of our western lands and eventually land him in our Nation's Capital, instilling in him, not just a love of America, but of the great history and tradition of the American West. Throughout his career, he remained focused on his duty of protecting and preserving those lands.

James graduated from Edison High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota as an excellent student and outstanding athlete. From there he began his undergraduate work attending Notre Dame University, before joining the United States Army's Military Intelligence division. After serving his country from 1965 to 1968 during the Vietnam War, he returned to his studies earning his B.A. in Journalism through the GI Bill from New Mexico State University.

While stationed with the Army at Ft. Holabird, Maryland, James met Sandra, the love of his life, at a USO dance and they made a life together that took them from small town living in Iowa to the deserts of New Mexico, and finally, with career opportunities pulling him and his family east to the Washington DC Metro area, he began a long and fulfilling career in civil service.

His journalism career began in Le Mars, Iowa where the city boy with a knack for sports writing, but very limited agricultural experience, talked his way into the Farm Editor position at the Daily Sentinel. He faced a steep learning curve, but quickly came to appreciate and, indeed, embrace the issues facing rural farm life. The experience gained from this position brought him back to Las Cruces, NM where he held the position of Information Director and Editor of the NM Farm and Livestock Bureau. After seven years, he and Sandra moved their three children to Silver Spring, Md leaving the great food, green chile, and beautiful sunsets of the southwest for the wide avenues and majestic governmental halls of Washington DC. From 1981 to 1993 he filled various rolls related to congressional affairs starting as a Legislative aide for NM Senator Pete Domenici, then working with the US Department of Agriculture as Assistant to the Secretary for Congressional Affairs.

He really found his home within the US Department of the Interior and held several positions starting in 1986 including BLM Deputy Director for External Affairs; director of Congressional Affairs for Interior Secretaries Donald Hodel and Manuel Luján, Jr; and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals Management. He transitioned back to Capitol Hill and worked for NM Congressman Joe Skeen from 1997 to 2002 after which he was appointed the Deputy Director for programs and policy within the US Department of the Interior under Secretary Gail Norton. His genuine dedication and commitment to our National Lands and to the people that lived in those states was a driving force behind his mission at the US Department of the Interior. In 2007, he was appointed Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management, responsible for managing 258 million acres of public land and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral resources.

From small beginnings as a "wet-behind-the-ears" farm editor to filling the position of acting director for one of the most influential bureaus of the US Department of the Interior, James never forgot his roots and could sit down at a table with the CEO of company or the janitor and come away with a more enriched perspective of life, "In many ways, I feel like the same guy I was when I was in Le Mars. My hair may have gotten grayer and I may have a whole lot less of it, but I'm still the same guy." He was a great listener, always quick with a joke or advice.

In retirement, James started his own consulting business to advise clients on the legislative process, current issues of debate and funding priorities involving mining law, the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts, grazing fees, and budget issues as they relate to energy issues and implementation of the National Energy Act. He was always available to help and quick to impart his knowledge and experience to those who needed it.

As longtime supporters of the arts, James and Sandra became patrons of the American Film Institute and enjoyed time spent attending film events locally and in Los Angeles. And when they weren't off to the movies, you can bet that he would be watching baseball. A lifelong Minnesota Twins fan, he embraced the Nationals, whether in DC or down in Florida for Spring Training. With a love of exploring historic sites, new places, different cuisines, and cultures, James and Sandra also traveled extensively during their years together.

Throughout his career and his life, he impacted people across the country as a friend and mentor, husband, father, brother, uncle, and grandfather and he will be missed by all. The family will receive friends at Hines Rinaldi Funeral Home, 11800 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland on Saturday, August 3rd from 10:00-10:45, and a memorial service celebrating his life will follow at 11am. An Internment Service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery in the spring with the date to be determined. Please consider making a gift in memory of James to the Jim and Sandy Hughes and Dr. G.N. "Doc" Stroman Endowed Scholarship at New Mexico State University to support students with career plans in Journalism and Agriculture. Donations can be made by visiting At this site, under Fund choose "Other (write-in)" then add the words "Hughes End Schol". In the comments box, please enter "In memory of James Hughes."
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News on July 21, 2019
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