From his first race at North Georgia Speedway in 1966 to his final, also at North Georgia in 1997 when he won the track championship in his final year, Hughes built a reputation as one of the nation’s top dirt Late Model drivers.
He was born in 1941 in Cleveland, Tenn., but moved to Dalton at the age of four. He was part of a group of Georgia racers, many of whom are already Hall of Fame members, who dominated dirt Late Model racing in the 1970s.
In 1976, Hughes had one of the best seasons ever in dirt Late Model racing.
Driving his familiar gold, blue and white No. 39, Hughes won 42 races that year including three of America’s most prestigious races.
That fall, he won the U.S. Dirt Track Championship at Champaign, Ill., the sixth annual World 100 at Eldora Speedway and the second annual National 100 at East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City.
His wins were noteworthy for several reasons, among them the fact that a racer from the South handily defeated many of the nation’s top dirt drivers.
Other major races Hughes won in 1976 included the Labor Day 100 and the Wynn’s Friction Proofing 300 at Atomic Speedway in Tennessee, the Mod LM 76 at Cleveland Tenn., the Memorial Day Jaycees Classic at Phenix City, the Boyd’s Spirit of 76 Classic at Cleveland, and four other races at East Alabama – the Firecracker 76, Bicentennial 76, Labor Day 76 and Danny Burdette Memorial 60.
Hughes spent much of his career campaigning Fords. His first race car was a Ford that he built in conjunction with fellow Dalton resident Biddle Ridley. The two shared that ride for a time before Hughes bought a car from Leon Brindle and set out on his own.
In addition to the races he won in the Midwest, Hughes won at tracks in nearly every state in the Southeast.
He has a documented 37 wins at Dixie Speedway and 14 more at Rome Speedway, many of them in major events.
Other major triumphs include a 100-lapper at Senoia Raceway in 1975, The Hall of Fame 150 at Atomic in 1977, the Southeastern Dirt Classic at Dixie Speedway in 1978, The Labor Day 100 and the Fall 100 at Dixie in 1979, a 75-lapper at Rome in 1980, the Miller Road to Charlotte 40 at Dixie in 1985, the Rome Boss 100 at Rome Speedway in 1985 and the Coca-Cola 100 at Dixie that same year.
He won the Budweiser Late Model 50 at North Georgia in 1990, the RC Cola 60 at Tazewell, Tenn., in 1993 and a Super Late Model special at North Georgia in 1996.
Hughes, whose sons DeWayne and Terry followed him into the sport, was inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2005.