Texas Supreme Court: Hughes Family lawsuit Against Tom Green County Over Library Name Must Be Heard
SAN ANGELO, TX — The Texas Supreme Court Friday sided with the Hughes family in their lawsuit against Tom Green County over the naming of the Tom Green County Library.
Duwain E. Hughes, Jr. died in 1965. In his will, Hughes left his home and all its contents including his rare book and music collections to Tom Green County and directed that his home should be used as a branch library to be known as the ‘Duwain Hughes Branch of the Tom Green County Library.’
Hughes also provided that the Library Board could sell the house and use the proceeds to buy books and materials for the Tom Green County Library. The will also left oil, gas and mineral rights from the Duwain E. Hughes Ranchlands to Southern Methodist University specifically to endow a chair in the English Department.
Over the years, Charles Hughes, Duwain Hughes' nephew, joined Tom Green County in a lawsuit against SMU for the excess funds generated by the Ranchlands which had already generated enough money to endow the chair. Tom Green County and the Hughes Heirs entered a Mutual Partial Assignment (MPA) which would provide for the heirs and the County to share equally in the proceeds.
The heirs and the County each received $500,000 each. According to the court documents, Tom Green County began planning for a new library. The project languished for more than a decade.
In 2006, Steve and Pollyanna Stephens raised $16 million for the new library project. County Commissioners decided to name the new central library after the Stephens. It is today named the Stephens Central Library. Commissioners also named the Audio Visual Department after Duwain Hughes.
Charles Hughes believed the recovery of the SMU money was substantial enough to warrant naming the library after his uncle and sued the County for the slight.
The lawsuit alleged Tom Green County Commissioner’s Court vote violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.
The County maintained it couldn’t be sued because it is a government entity and entitled to sovereign immunity.
The case was heard in District Court and the ruling was in favor of the County. Hughes appealed to the Third Court of Appeals in Austin which also sided with the County.
The Texas Supreme Court sided with Hughes and reversed the rulings of the lower courts. The Supreme Court ordered the case be heard again by the District Court.
Correction: The original text read that Duwaine Hughes, Jr. died in 1997. That was incorrect. He died in 1965. The text has been corrected.
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