Robert Epperson Hughes of Issaquah died peacefully on December 9, 2012, surrounded by his family. A hallmark of his life was his passion for justice and the rights of all people, based in his deep Christian faith.
Born in 1928 in Gadsden, Alabama, Bob was a direct descendant of one of the town's founders, Gabriel Hughes.
A political science major, Bob graduated from the University of Alabama in 1949. He was a lifelong enthusiastic supporter of the Crimson Tide, cheering on the football team in his Alabama cap. Roll Tide!
He later earned masters degrees from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University and the Boston University School of Theology. It was at Emory University that he met graduate student Dorothy Swaringen. They married in 1953.
Bob was involved in human rights work for over 50 years. He served churches in Alabama before becoming executive director of the Alabama Council on Human Relations in 1954. At the council, he became deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement in the South and worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Bob's unwavering commitment to the rights of all led to jail time in Bessemer, Alabama. A cross was burned in front of his Birmingham home, and he was asked to leave the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church. Through these trials, his faith in a just and loving God remained strong.
He continued fighting human rights abuses in Africa, as he and Dottie in 1961 were sent as Methodist missionaries to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), along with their children. His staunch opposition to the oppressive white government led to his deportation, and they completed their mission term in Zambia in 1966.
Upon their return to the United States, Bob began a career as a mediator with the Community Relations Service of the US Department of Justice, working first in the Atlanta office and then in Seattle.
His CRS job allowed him to travel widely in the Pacific Northwest, and he particularly enjoyed his trips to Alaska.
After retiring from CRS in 1994, he chaired the Board of Church and Society for the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church and served as coordinator of the Peace with Justice program of the conference.
Bob and Dottie made their home on Mercer Island for 35 years. Both have been active in Mercer Island United Methodist Church and Bob was a member of the Mercer Island Lions Club.
In 2010, the couple moved to Timber Ridge retirement community in Issaquah.
Bob's world view was truly expansive. He studied at the Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland; served as interim pastor at a church in Bogota, Colombia, for three months; and accepted an invitation to join a group of mediators who traveled to China shortly after that country opened to the world. He and Dottie traveled for pleasure to Africa, Europe, China, Australia and New Zealand as well as across the US and Canada.
Bob is survived by Dottie, their daughters Forrest Hughes and her husband Robert Efird of Richmond, Va.; Cynthia Hughes and her husband Daniel Piraino of Seattle; Elizabeth Hughes of Seattle; and Virginia Gray and her husband Donald Gray of Issaquah. He also is survived by grandchildren Charles Efird and his wife Lauren Efird of Williamsburg, Va.; Bobby Efird and Dorothy Efird of Richmond; Alyssa Piraino and Cara Piraino of Seattle; and Emily Gray, Allison Gray and Zachary Gray of Issaquah. He also is survived by his sister, Marian Hughes Bahr of Providence, Utah.
Funeral arrangements were made through Flintoft's Funeral Home.
A memorial service celebrating Bob's life will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, January 5, 2013, at Mercer Island United Methodist Church, 7070 SE 24th Street, Mercer Island, WA, 98040. Memorial contributions may be made to Mercer Island United Methodist Church at the above address or to the Peace with Justice Program, Pacific Northwest United Methodist Annual Conference, P.O. Box 13650, Des Moines, WA 98198-1009.