Donald Kenneth Hughes Sr., a former Baltimore County Schools principal who served in the Maryland House of Delegates and was Maryland’s first Teacher of the Year, died of dementia June 26 at Arden Court in Riderwood. The former resident of High Country Road in Hampton was 88.
“Don was an honest guy with a lot of integrity,” said Joseph Bartenfelder, Maryland Secretary of Agriculture and former House of Delegates member. “He typified the non-political politician. We need more Don Hughes in office today.”
Born in Baltimore and raised in East Baltimore, he was the son of Charles Sheldon Hughes, a boiler maker, and Margaret Hofmeister, a homemaker. He was a 1953 Patterson Park High School graduate and earned degrees at what is now Towson University and the Johns Hopkins University.
While a Towson undergraduate, he met his future wife, Colleen Stokely, a fellow student.
Mr. Hughes, who played soccer and wrestled, was a 1956 Mason Dixon Tournament winner. He was named to Towson University’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980.
He joined the faculty of St. Paul’s School for Boys and coached wrestling. In 2013, the school named Mr. Hughes to its Athletic Hall of Fame.
He subsequently became a Baltimore County Schools teacher and taught sixth grade at Hampton Elementary School on Charmuth Road. He was named Outstanding Young Educator by the Timonium-Cockeysville Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1969.
“Don knew every child by name and he greeted them that way,” said Robert Y. Dubel, former Baltimore County Schools superintendent. “He was sensitive and loved children. He was also a great believer in American values.”
Mr. Hughes was the 1971 Maryland Teacher of the Year. The award, the first annual award bestowed, was promoted in a selection process by Look magazine.
He was named by State School Superintendent James A. Sesenbaugh and nominated by his principal, May Robinson. She based her recommendation on his “special concern for children, superior rapport with peers, parents and the community at large.”
In an interview with The Sun, he said his approach to discipline was “to know his student, give them attention and avoid confrontation.”
He was not opposed to classroom noise. “Noise can be a great thing if it’s the noise of kids enthusiastically learning,” he said.
He later went into administration and was assistant principal at Fullerton Elementary and Red House Run School in Golden Ring.
He was later named principal of Berkshire Elementary in Dundalk.
Mr. Hughes was the 1978 Baltimore County youth commissioner. He was also a soccer coach at the Cromwell Valley Recreation Council.
Mr. Hughes became associated with a childhood friend, Theodore “Ted” Venetoulis, a former Baltimore County Executive and political activist, and assisted in his political campaigns.
Mr. Venetoulis named him chair of Baltimore County Youth Commission and held hearings in the councilmanic jurisdictions to gain a sense of what steps needed to be taken to improve conditions for young people.
The Morning Sun
Once in the political arena, Mr. Hughes decided to run for state office and was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. He served from 1979 to 1986. He served in Baltimore County’s Ninth District along with fellow delegates Martha Klima and Thomas B. Kernan for much of his service.
He was the subject of a Sun news article in 1982 when he reported that he was offered a political campaign contribution from representatives of the old Hechinger hardware stores who were seeking repeal of Sunday blue laws. Mr. Hughes said he wished to retain the existing law that kept large stores closed on Sundays.
He also requested an opinion from State Attorney General Stephen Sachs about whether a judge could award joint custody of a child in a divorce case, a matter that in 1983 was open to question. Mr. Sachs said a judge could in fact award joint custody.
He became well known in the community and was named the 1981 Most Distinguished Individual by the Towson Jaycees.
Mr. Hughes enjoyed taking long walks in the Loch Raven Watershed.
Survivors include his wife of 64 years, Colleen Stokely, a former Baltimore Country Schools teacher and homemaker; two sons, Donald K. Hughes Jr. of Parkville and David S. Hughes of Lutherville; four grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
Services were held Friday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home.