Sarah T. Hughes

Judge Sarah T. Hughes, the first woman federal district judge for the Northern District of Texas, swore in LBJ as President of the United States aboard Air Force One after JFK was killed. She is the only woman ever to have sworn in a president. She attended George Washington University law school as a night student, and worked as a police officer in Washington DC during the day. Her police beat was in areas where women and girls worked as prostitutes and hid as runaways, and her focus was on helping these women transition out of poverty. In 1922, she married her law school sweetheart and moved to Dallas, Texas. While her husband quickly found a job, she was unable to find work as a lawyer. She eventually agreed to be a receptionist for Priest, Herndon, and Ledbetter, a small firm, in exchange for them referring some cases to her and giving her a small office space. She became very active in Dallas, and was elected to three terms in the Texas House of Representatives beginning in 1930. She became Texas’s first woman judge when she was appointed to Dallas’s 14th District Court in 1935, and was elected to that seat 7 times thereafter. In 1961, she became the first woman to serve as a federal judge in Texas when President Kennedy appointed her to the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. She was only the third woman to serve as a federal judge in the US and the only woman ever appointed by Kennedy to the federal bench. She became closely aligned with the effort to change Texas law to allow women to serve on juries, which occurred in 1954, nearly 20 years after she began serving as a judge. LBJ knew he wanted Judge Hughes to swear him in and is said to have bellowed “Get Sarah Hughes … Find her.” She was found while Air Force One waited for her at Love Field, and she arrived and administered the oath, making LBJ the 36th President of the United States. The most famous photo of her is from the back as she administers the oath.

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