Charles Willis Hughes

Doctor Charles Willis Hughes of Arkadelphia passed away peacefully on October 12, 2022, at 91 years old. He is survived by his best friend and life partner, his wife of 64 years, Elsie Marie Hughes (née Voyles); one sister, Berle George; two children, Cynthia Marie Moorman (Stan) and Charles Willis Hughes Jr. (Michelle); two grandchildren, Rachel Marie White (Tommy) and Jazmin Lillie Marie Saverse (Cory); one great-grandson, Milo Cohen White; and many dear friends. He was preceded in death by his mother Hattie Clinton (née Brown) and father Willis Berle Hughes; and two sisters, Selma Louise Parker and Mary Alice Wallace.

Charles was born on July 24, 1931, in Dallas, Texas. He was raised in the Dallas Oak Cliff neighborhood during the Great Depression in an area now full of buildings, but at the time was full of places to hunt with his dog Buster. He left school at age 17 to join the Navy, but was instead placed in the Marines as a medic. It was in the Marines where he had some of his most impactful life experiences on the front lines in Korea, which inspired his first book, Accordion War: Korea 1951, Life and Death in a Marine Rifle Company and his later book Puller: Thicker Than Water, The Story of Two Marines, about the famous Korean War Marine Corps leader and most decorated Marine in history, Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller.

Upon his return from Korea, Charles briefly returned to high school and was told shortly after that he should go on to college, which brought him to Abilene Christian College (now Abilene Christian University). That brief second time at high school resulted in his lifelong friendship with schoolmate Gary Land.

After finishing a BS with a double major in economics and political science at the University of Texas, Charles applied to work for the government’s intelligence branch of the National Security Agency as a cryptanalyst. He later taught cryptanalysis at the Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. He married Elsie Marie Voyles in August of 1958 and they had two children, Cyndi and Chuck.

In 1966, with two young children, Charles made the monumental decision to pursue his dream job of being a literature professor. He quit his government position and moved to Lubbock, Texas to attend Texas Tech University on an assistantship where he acquired his MA and PhD in literature and linguistics.

On graduating in 1971, Charles acquired a position in the English Department at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia and moved his family from the West Texas plains to green and hilly Arkansas. He hunted and fished, ran and hiked, floated the rivers, and enjoyed all of the many outdoor activities associated with this part of the state. He loved DeGray Lake, and other than the family cabin in Wondervu, Colorado, where he spent every summer, his favorite place was home in Arkadelphia.

Charles loved music and enjoyed playing guitar with his son Chuck on the banjo. Together they played bluegrass with many other musicians around the state and country. He passed his love of music to his granddaughters and great grandson as well.

Charles served as chairman of the English Department at Henderson for five years, establishing a writing program at the university, and remained a professor until his retirement in 1996, though he continued his passion for teaching as an adjunct professor until 1998. After his retirement he began writing books–in addition to his books about the Korean War and Chesty Puller, he wrote about the amazing life of Arkadelphia icon John Allen Adams in A Fortune Teller’s Blessing, and an edit of his dissertation Moby Dick and The Bear, which he published as the book Wild. He also spent his retirement traveling around the country and twice to Europe. As long as he was able, he met wherever his comrades from Korea were gathered. He loved any opportunity to spend time with his family and was passionate about the environment, politics, literature, gardening and any opportunity to learn something new. He loved sharing his interests and experiences with everyone he knew, and one could be certain that no conversation with him would be boring small talk.

Visitation will be at Welch Funeral Home on Sunday, October 16, from 2-4 p.m.

Funeral services will be October 17 at 11 a.m., officiated by Charles’ nephew Richard George and will include music from Posey Hill, Harry Blanton, and Rachel White.

Interment will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery with Naval military honors.

In lieu of flowers, donations are welcomed to Friends of Korea at, or to the NRDC at, an environmental organization that does great work to protect the world we all share.

Charles’ family would like to extend their deepest thanks to those who remained his friends for so many years, including Jack Troutner from the NSA, and to the amazing people at Nightingale Comfort Care who treated him like family in the last few months of his life. Thank you also to Elite Hospice and to our dear friends and neighbors who were always there when we needed them and who helped in more ways than we can.

Categories: Obituaries

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