Charles Evans Hughes was New York’s 36th Governor. The Republican elected in 1906 would serve until October 1910, when he began his first stint on the U.S. Supreme Court, as an Associate Justice until 1916.
From 1921 to 1925, Hughes served as Secretary of State. And in 1930, Hughes returned to the Supreme Court, serving as Chief Justice until 1941.
On top of all that, Hughes was born in Glens Falls and maintained a connection to the Adirondacks throughout his life.
Hughes’ connection to the forested lands in upstate New York is the subject of a new documentary, co-produced by former Glens Falls Post-Star reporter and author Maury Thompson called “My Native Air: Charles Evans Hughes and the Adirondacks.” The 45-minute documentary will also serve as a fundraiser for arts organizations in Glens Falls.
Thompson, who in 2018 published a book on Hughes – focusing on of all things, his whiskers – said he wanted to make a documentary on Hughes before his book was written, but needed some help. He spoke with WAMC's Lucas Willard:
Thompson: You know, obviously, I'm a storyteller, and a promoter and a researcher and a writer. But I needed someone with the film expertise. Shortly after I left the Post Star, I met Caitlin Stedman from Starkey Aardvark Films. And we chatted about the project, and we decided to do it. She is the co- producer, and co-director on the project with me. She has the expertise in film technology. And I have the historical and the writing background. She's the chief executive officer on this project. And I'm the chief instigator so we can divide up the work and make it a good team to work on this project.
Willard: In Hughes's connection to upstate New York, is there's something about the Adirondacks and upstate New York – that you think is being from the area yourself – that formed his approach to governing? Whether it's as a governor or as a secretary of state or even on the Supreme Court.
Thompson: I think probably more of his, you might say progressive Baptist upbringing form that I think his experiences and connections with the Adirondacks formed his appreciation of the Adirondacks and his dedication to preserving not just the Adirondacks, but the Parkland. Elsewhere in inner city playgrounds. One thing, for example, 1908, National Governor's conference at the White House. Hughes was there. And at that time, he was considered a potential presidential candidate. One of many times he was considered in his speech. Now you think, in modern context, you're on a national platform to give a speech, you're going to select something of national issues. No. Hughes gave a speech about the importance of preserving forest land in the Adirondacks. Fascinating thoughts. So I think I think it was more of his, his time in the Adirondacks gave him an appreciation, and maybe the people that he was connected with in the Adirondacks. We're the type of people that were broad minded thinkers.
Willard: Can you explain how this documentary on Charles Evans Hughes and his connection to the Adirondacks will benefit the arts community in Glens Falls and the area?
Thompson: When we initially we had planned a premier at the Wood Theater a couple months ago in October to benefit the Wood Theater and the Glens Falls Arts District, and the Wood Theater obviously, needs the assistance right now, you know, they've been closed during the pandemic. They’re an arts organization that makes their money by renting space. And if you can't rent space, you know, you don't have any revenue, so this will be a big help to them. And the Glens Falls Arts District is a project that Caitlin and I both believe in very, very soundly. And so this will give them some funding to continue and we're taking no revenue from this premiere. It's all going into those two organizations.
Willard: So how can people watch the film?
Thompson: They can go to the Charles R. Wood Theater website and purchase a pass, if they want to purchase them as Christmas presents ahead of time that's available, and you purchase pairs, and that sends you a code. And then they can watch it from the comfort of their home anytime between January 15 and February 15. And if there's among your listeners, if there's museums and organizations that have interest in screening the film down the road when the COVID situation is over, as soon as things clear up, we'll be scheduling in person screenings.
Original music from the documentary “My Native Air: Charles Evans Hughes and the Adirondacks" by Ray Agnew