Longtime Osage County rancher John F. Hughes died at his home June 19, following several months of ill health.
Absence of the 80-year-old patriarch of Hughes Ranch was noted with concern recently during the annual convention for the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association, of which Hughes was a past president.
"John was a generous and understanding gentleman who had the respect of everyone I know," said Frederick Drummond, of Pawhuska, whose personal and business associations with Hughes extend back 70 years.
"He was a leader whose loss will be greatly felt by his family, the community and all of us who considered him their friend," Drummond said.
Hughes was born in Bartlesville on May 16, 1933 — the youngest of four children of Arthur and Elsie Hughes. In 1938, the Osage County ranch started as a land purchase in 1938 by his father, an oil industry pioneer with Phillips Petroleum Co. John Hughes was a junior in high school when he purchased his first cattle — at $100 a head for strays he had gathered for Boots Adams.
After graduating from College High School in 1951, Hughes attended Oklahoma A&M College — now Oklahoma State University — earning a bachelor’s degree in animal science. He left college in 1955 and took over the day-to-day management of the Hughes cattle operation.
In 1956, Hughes married Lorna Jane McLeod, whom he had met when they were students in Stillwater. They have four children and have 13 grandchildren.
Hughes maintained the ranch as a cow/calf operation for more than 30 years before converting it to a stocker business in the late 1980s. Since 1989, the Hughes Ranch has also been the home to thousands of adopted wild mustangs.
During an April 4 ceremony at the state Capitol, Hughes was inducted as the 16th member into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame. Rep. Earl Sears, of Bartlesville, called the local rancher "an icon of our community."
Gov. Mary Fallin also presented Hughes with a Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in recognition of his seven decades of contributions to the agriculture industry. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture referred to him as "a tremendous cattleman and visionary."
Hughes also was praised for being "an exceptional steward of the land." In his ongoing effort to restore the native bluestem pasture on his property, he developed innovative land-clearing techniques which he readily shared with other farmers and ranchers. By keeping in touch with changes affecting the cattle ranching industry, Hughes adapted with the times and became a leader in promoting new technologies.
Other honors Hughes received included: Oklahoma’s Outstanding Young Rancher-Farmer (1962); Governor’s Conservation Award (1972); Bluestem Rancher of the Year (1980); Outstanding Achievement Award for the Society of Range Management (1982); Graduate of Distinction from the OSU Animal Science Department (1985) and Oklahoma Cattleman of the Year (1993).
Hughes also served as president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, director of the National Cattlemen’s Association, board member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, chairman of the Oklahoma Beef Commission and director of the Texas Cattle Feeder’s Association. He was a board member of the National Livestock Credit Corporation, board member of the National Livestock Commission Association, board member of the Oklahoma Beef Council and director of the US Meat Export Federation.
He also served on the board of trustees for the Frank Phillips Foundation, board of Arvest Bank, board of First National Bank, director for the Grand River Dam Authority and the board of the Bartlesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
At the 100th Bartlesville Birthday celebration in 1997, Hughes was presented with a Centennial Medallion for his contributions to the community in cattle and agriculture. He was honored in May 2011 by the Bartlesville Community Foundation, which inducted the Hughes family into its Bartlesville Legacy Hall of Fame.
Under his direction, the Hughes Ranch grew from 1,800 acres when it was started until it covered more than 12,000 acres. The ranch property extends from just southwest of Bartlesville to the northern border of Woolaroc.
A memorial service was held Monday at First Baptist Church in Bartlesville. Arrangements were under the direction of Arnold Moore & Neekamp Funeral Home.