Gail Chord Schuler’s Paternal Great Uncle: Howard Hughes

January 3, 2005

The Adventures of Howard Hughes
By Dr. Frank J. Collazo

Introduction: Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. (1905-1976), American industrialist, aviator, and motion-picture producer. He was born in December 24, 1905 in Houston, Texas. His mother died in March 29,1922, and his father, Howard Robard Hughes, Sr., founder of the Hughes Tool Company, died January 14,1924.

Howard Hughes’ uncle, his father’s brother Rupert, was a writer for Samuel Goldwyn’s movie studios. Howard Hughes married a Houston socialite Ella Rice (married June 1, 1925, divorced in 1929), and married Actress Jean Peters (married 1957, divorced 1970). Hughes often dated Hollywood actresses in the 1930s, especially Katherine Hepburn.

Hughes’s enormous wealth, intellect, and achievement–combined with his much publicized reclusive life in his later years–made him one of the most famous men of the mid-20th century. American Howard Hughes was known as one of the wealthiest men in the world. In the 1930s he founded the Hughes Aircraft Corporation.

Early Years: Born in Houston, Texas, Hughes was the only child of Howard Robard Hughes, Sr., and his wife, Allene Gano Hughes. He grew up amid great wealth and privilege due to his father’s successful business, the Hughes Tool Company. The company had been founded in the early 1900s after his father and a partner received patents for a revolutionary oil-drill bit.

As a child, Hughes showed great aptitude in engineering. At age 11, he erected Houston’s first wireless broadcast set, a communications system that used radio waves to transmit signals and messages across distances. He took his first flying lesson at age 14, establishing his lifelong love of flight.

When he was 16 years old, Hughes’s mother died. Shortly afterward, his father took him to Hollywood, California, and introduced him to show business. Hughes decided then that he wanted to get into the movie industry. When his father died two years later, he inherited the Hughes Tool Company. Hughes soon hired others to oversee the company so he could pursue a career in film.

Education: Hughes attended private school in Boston, where he was better at golf than class work. He was attending Thatcher School in California when his mother died. In California, Hughes spent time with his uncle, Rupert, who inspired his later interest in filmmaking. Hughes never graduated from high school. Nonetheless, his father arranged for him to sit in on classes at Cal Tech by donating money to the school. Afterward, Howard returned to Houston and enrolled at Rice Institute (now Rice University). Howard, Sr. died suddenly a few weeks after his son turned eighteen. Young Howard inherited much of the family estate and dropped out of Rice.

Profession (Family Business): Uncle Rupert supervised Howard’s part of the estate and interest in the Hughes Tool Company until he was twenty-one. Family quarrels led Howard to have company lawyers buy out his relatives. A Houston judge and friend of his late father’s granted Howard legal adulthood on December 26, 1924, allowing him to take over the tool company.

Movie Career Development: Following the summer of 1924, Howard and Ella moved to Hollywood to pursue Howard’s interest in making movies. When his first attempt failed, he hired Noah Dietrich to head the movie subsidiary of his tool company and Lewis Milestone as director. The new team won an academy award for Two Arabian Nights (1928). Their next film, Hell’s Angels (1930), written and directed by Hughes and starring Jean Harlow, was the most expensive movie of its time at a cost of $3.8 million. This movie, about World War I aviators, lost $1.5 million at the box office but allowed Hughes to indulge his interest in flying. While shooting Hell’s Angels, Hughes earned his pilot’s license.

Two later Hughes films tested the limits of public morality. Scarface (1932) was censored until Hughes sued to allow its release, and The Outlaw (1941) became controversial for its sexually explicit advertising and content, both featuring a sensational décolletage worn by a busty Jane Russell. Inspired by the excitement over The Outlaw, Hughes later took a break from airplane fuselage design to create the half-cup bra, modeled of course by his Hollywood discovery, Jane Russell.

It was in the ’30s that Hughes built the Texas Theater, the movie house in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas in which Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in 1963. The closeness of both men to the CIA makes it all but certain that the Texas Theater would have become a clandestine meeting place for spies. Such use of movie theaters had long been a staple of espionage tradecraft, and other Hughes properties were put to similar use. Hughes owned the RKO movie studio from 1948 to 1955.

Industrialist: The continued success of Hughes Tool Company allowed Hughes to support his experiments in flight and launch other projects. In 1932 he founded the Hughes Aircraft Corporation, which designed and constructed airplanes for commercial and military use.

Aviation: Hughes Aircraft pioneered many innovations in aerospace technology. But its origin was an attempt to finance the expensive conversion of a military plane into a racing plane. The next year, he achieved a false status by lobbying the Commerce Department to lower his pilot’s license number from 4223 to 80. Charles Lindbergh’s number was 69.

The only real job Hughes ever had also came in 1933. He signed on as a co-pilot for American Airways. He applied under the name Charles W. Howard. The ruse was quickly discovered, however, and Hughes resigned. After entering and winning the 1934 All-America Air Meet in Miami, Hughes built and personally test-piloted the world’s most advanced plane, the H-1. On September 13, 1935, he set a new speed record, taking the plane to 352 mph. Over the next two years, he set two new records with transcontinental flights. Between July 10 and 14, 1938, Hughes piloted a special Lockheed 14 with a crew of four on a flight around the world. He cut Lindbergh’s New York to Paris record in half, and finished the trip in three days, nineteen hours and seventeen minutes.

Aviation Hero: Between 1930 and 1940, commercial air transportation was greatly expanded, and frequent long-distance and transoceanic flights were undertaken. The transcontinental nonstop flight record was reduced by American aviators flying small planes and subsequently transport planes. In 1930 Roscoe Turner flew from New York City to Los Angeles in 18 hours 43 minutes; Frank Hawks flew from Los Angeles to New York City in 12 hours 25 minutes. In 1935 he set a speed record of 566 km/h (352 mph) while flying the Silver Bullet, an airplane he designed.

In 1937 Howard Hughes flew from Burbank, California, to Newark, New Jersey, in 7 hours 28 minutes. In 1939 Ben Kelsey flew from Marsh Field, California, to Mitchell Field, New York, in 7 hours 45 minutes. Hughes’s other love in life was designing and flying airplanes. He was determined to become a famous aviator. But it was his around-the-world flight from July 10 to July 14, 1938, that transformed him into a national hero. Hughes set a new record of 3 days 19 hours 17 minutes.

Record Flights: Among the important records established in 1938 was the flight of Howard Hughes around the world, via a close approximation of Wiley Post’s route, in 91 hours, 8 minutes, 10 seconds. After many months of painstaking preparation and organization of unparalleled ground equipment and personnel, Hughes and his crew of four took off Sunday, July 10 at 7:20 pm. He returned to Floyd Bennett Field Thursday, July 14 at 2:37 pm. At the take-off, his Lockheed 14 twin-engine transport was loaded to 25,000 lb. gross, or 4.7 lb. per square foot of wing area.

Houston’s airport was renamed in his honor. As World War II approached, Hughes turned his full attention to building military aircraft. But his regard for secrecy and disregard for military protocol and standardized materials kept him from getting contracts. Henry J. Kaiser, the famous shipbuilder, helped Hughes get a contract to build three “flying boats” for $18 million in three months. Those terms proved impossible for Hughes. In the end, he produced only one of the planes after the war ended. It was flown only once on November 2, 1947, by Hughes himself. The public ridiculed him by calling the plane “The Spruce Goose.”

Another wartime contract for reconnaissance planes went similarly unfulfilled, and caused the deaths of two people when Hughes crashed during a test flight at Lake Mead. In 1947, the Senate investigated Hughes failure to meet his wartime contracts. In the 1950s and beyond, Hughes manufactured spy satellites.

Outstanding Flight of the Year: One of the outstanding flights of the year, Howard Hughes’ record spin around the world has, so far, produced no available philatelic record. Mr. Hughes carried some letters, which were variously postmarked, and these souvenirs he distributed to friends on his return. It is not improbable that eventually some of them will find their way into flight collections. Corrigan’s “mistake” was not complicated by airmail covers.

Hughes Flying Boat (The Spruce Goose): Howard Hughes began building the Spruce Goose under military contract in 1942. With eight engines, the gargantuan flying boat, conceived as a troop transport, still holds the record as the largest plane ever constructed. After decades in storage, the plane finally went on public display at Long Beach, Calif., berthed near the ocean liner Queen Mary.

The gigantic Hughes NX 37620 flying boat, which had been the subject of a spectacular Congressional investigation during the summer of 1947, was floated on November 1st from its dry dock on the Long Beach, California waterfront. The launching took place only a few days before the scheduled resumption of the investigation. After announcing that flight tests would not be made until March 1948, Pilot Howard Hughes attempted a successful takeoff during one of the taxiing tests on November 2nd and flew the $25,000,000 seaplane for a distance of about a mile at an altitude of 70 ft.

The all-wood flying boat has a wingspan of 320 ft. and a hull length of 220 ft. The hull is 30 ft. high and 25 ft. wide. Its gross weight is approximately 200 tons plus cargo load. The power plant consists of eight Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major engines, Model R-4360, developing more than 3,000 hp each. The four-blade propellers are 17 ft., 2 in. in diameter. Fourteen 1,000-gallon tanks carry the fuel supply. Estimated performance is top speed, 218 mph; cruising speed, 175 mph; landing speed, 78 mph; and take-off distance, 5,500 feet. Engine controls are pneumatic and patterned around the Pneudyne, a device long used by railroads in brake control. Flight controls are hydraulic and are reversible so that they transmit gust-load forces back to the pilot. The wing section is sufficiently high to afford an ample passageway for the flight engineers to reach the engines.

Glomar Explorer: The Glomar Explorer, was built by Howard Hughes for the CIA to attempt to lift a Soviet submarine from the deep Pacific floor. The new drill ship would extend man’s ability to probe the deep sediments of the continental margins, thought to be the storehouse of substantial oil and gas pools. The numerous technical difficulties in harvesting manganese nodules from the ocean floor were reportedly overcome by at least eight companies throughout the world.

The Summa Corporation, controlled by Howard Hughes, was the first company to begin actual sea tests. Its 36,000 ton Glomar Explorer was accompanied by a submersible seafloor-mining vehicle connected to the ship by several miles of pipe and electrical power conduits. Details of the mining operation were not available because of its highly competitive enterprise. The vessel, however, had ultramodern navigational and operational controls and accommodations for 125 scientists and technicians. According to Summa’s Project Manager, Paul G. Reeve, the vessel and undersea mining vehicle were considered entirely experimental.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Hughes Electronics, a subsidiary of Hughes Aircraft, was one of the largest suppliers of weapons to the U.S. Air Force and Navy. The company also developed sophisticated defense systems for national security projects, such as air-to-air guided missiles. This defense system was considered one of the most important of its kind because it could detect incoming attacks and immediately launch retaliatory missiles. In the 1960s the company helped develop artificial satellites.

Rosemont Enterprises: Rosemont Enterprises, allegedly controlled by Howard Hughes, secured an injunction (later lifted by the U.S. Court of Appeals) against John Keats’ life story of Hughes in what was seen as an attempt to protect the industrialist’s privacy.

Military Industrial Complex: Throughout the 1950s, as the power of three entities grew — the Hughes empire, organized crime, and the new Central Intelligence Agency — it became all but impossible to distinguish between them. By the end of the decade, Chief of Staff, Robert Maheu, had orchestrated the CIA’s dirtiest secret, a plot to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro with the help of two heads of organized crime.

Vice President Richard Nixon was the White House action officer in the clandestine attempts to oust Castro. (Zapata Off-Shore, the oil company owned by future CIA director and U.S. President George Bush after he split it off from Zapata Oil partner Hugh Liedtke in 1954, had a drilling rig on the Cay Sal Bank in 1958.) These islands had been leased to Nixon supporter and CIA contractor Howard Hughes the previous year and were later used as a base for CIA raids on Cuba. Nixon lost the 1960 presidential election to John F. Kennedy largely because of a scandal over a never repaid $205,000 “loan” Nixon’s brother received from Hughes. As attorney general, Robert Kennedy secretly investigated the Hughes-Nixon dealings.

After Bobby Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, Maheu and Hughes hired long-time Kennedy advisor Larry O’Brien along with other political insiders to protect their interests in Washington. In 1953, Hughes had founded the Hughes Medical Institute in Delaware as his sole act of philanthropy. By turning over all of the stock of Hughes Aircraft Company to the institute, he made his billion-dollar-a-year weapons factory a tax-exempt charity. By 1969, that scam was about to be shut down by a Senate bill, which followed an investigation by fellow Texan Wright Patman, the powerful chairman of the House Banking Committee. But O’Brien lobbied his allies and got a loophole creating an exemption for “medical research organizations” like the Hughes Medical Institute.

Hughes Quotation: “I am determined to elect a president of our choosing this year and one who will be deeply indebted, and who will recognize his indebtedness. Since I am willing to go beyond all limitations on this, I think we should be able to select a candidate and a party who knows the facts of political life. If we select Nixon, then he, I know for sure knows the facts of life.” (From handwritten memos by Howard Hughes, early in the 1968 presidential campaign.)

CIA Assassination Plots: The CIA assassination plots had begun to leak to the press, requiring the government to distance itself from Maheu. Not only did he know too much, it was one of his associates, attorney Ed Morgan, who had leaked the story to columnist Jack Anderson. It was now Chester Davis, Raymond Holliday, and Bill Gay, the Hughes Tool Company executives who ran Hughes Nevada properties, who were contacted by the CIA when they wanted to build a CIA ship, the Glomar Explorer, to recover a sunken Soviet submarine.

In 1972, Hughes sold Hughes Tool Company’s stock and renamed his company Summa Corporation, ending any remaining role in his business. His health deteriorated and his entourage of aids carted him to Panama, Canada, London and Acapulco. On June 5, 1974, a break-in occurred at Hughes’ Romaine Street headquarters in Los Angeles. The theft of secret documents sent shockwaves through the U.S. intelligence community.

Watergate and Nixon Downfall: President Nixon’s downfall began when he ordered burglars to break into Larry O’Brien’s office in 1972. At the time, O’Brien was both a Hughes employee and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, headquartered in the Watergate Hotel. The Watergate burglars happened to have been heavily involved in the covert anti-Castro operations (which Nixon oversaw as vice president). They were also deeply involved in the conspiracies which grew out of those operations; conspiracies which prevented any major political future for the Kennedy family, and led directly to Nixon’s resurrection from political obscurity.

The purpose of the break-in was never revealed because Nixon sidetracked the Watergate scandal’s investigations, likely on purpose, into a focus on multiple other high crimes. Whatever the purpose of the break-in, Hughes was right in the middle of the major forces linking the conspiracies that resulted in the murders and character assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, and the Watergate scandal that toppled the Nixon administration.

Impact of Watergate: Fundamentally it is believed that Watergate was about the Larry O’Brien and Howard Hughes business, the accumulated secrets gathered over the years by O’Brien from Hughes. Hughes was a key figure, but ultimately this matter was shrouded in mystery. We will never quite know because Nixon is dead; Howard Hunt didn’t know what he was doing, nor did Liddy. They were all pawns, mechanisms, like Lee Harvey Oswald, and it was hard for them to see the big picture. It is not known whether even Nixon saw the big picture because, like Henry II and the assassination of Thomas à Becket, he had put something into play that his minions carried out.

TWA/Hughes Deal: In 1939 American aviator Howard Hughes, a multimillionaire, bought a controlling stake (78 percent) in the airline. In 1946 the company introduced transatlantic service with flights from New York City to Paris. That same year the airline added flights to Rome, Italy; Athens, Greece; Cairo, Egypt; Lisbon, Portugal; and Madrid, Spain, as well as the first transatlantic all-cargo air service. In 1950 Hughes renamed the company Trans World Airlines. When Hughes sold his stock in the company in 1966, the stock was valued at more than $500 million..

Hughes vs. TWA: Howard R. Hughes, who sold his controlling interest in Trans World Airlines for $546.5 million, may have had to pay $137.6 million in damages to the company. Herbert Brownell, a court-appointed special master, recommended the award in September. TWA had charged that Mr. Hughes, when he controlled the company, had delayed purchasing jet airplanes in the late 1950’s and had thus hurt the airline’s competitive position. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York awarded a default judgment against Mr. Hughes in 1963 when he refused to appear in court; the five-year delay has been taken up with appeals and the hearings of the special master to determine the extent of damages.

The Northeast Airlines Case: In 1961 the CAB authorized the Hughes Tool Company, owned by multimillionaire Howard Hughes, to acquire a controlling portion of Northeast’s stock. Thanks to financial help from that company, Northeast remained alive, but continued losses ($44 million in the first seven years of its Florida service) kept the airline on the verge of bankruptcy.

Air West Take Over: In 1970 Howard Hughes assumed a take-over of Air West, an airline serving about 100 cities in the western areas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. (He was later indicted in the Air West takeover, but the case was dismissed.) Hughes was increasingly reclusive and decreasingly in control of his business dealings. Not even Nixon could contact him directly. Maheu’s power was also declining.

Nicaragua: Howard Hughes made two visits to Nicaragua, each of which provoked many rumors. It is certain, however, that Hughes made a deal with Lanica, the Nicaraguan national airline (owned by the Somoza family) to trade 25 percent of Lanica stock for two Convair 880 jets. Supposedly, this is the first step in a merger of Hughes’ Air West with Lanica.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute: In 1953 Hughes founded a new medical research center called the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). He transferred all 75,000 shares of Hughes Aircraft Co. stock to the organization. As the holding company for Hughes Aircraft, the institute, based in Miami, Florida, used part of the aircraft company’s profits to fund research. It owned Hughes Aircraft until 1985, when it sold the company to General Motors Corporation. The institute, now one of the largest nonprofit medical research centers in the United States, moved its headquarters to Chevy Chase, Maryland, in 1993. The pharmaceutical industry spent about $26 billion on research in 2000. The next largest source of funds was the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), which spends about $554 million annually.

Howard Hughes College of Engineering: The Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering included the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, the Graduate College, the Greenspun School of Communication, and the School of Social Work. Research facilities at the university included the National Supercomputing Center for Energy and the Environment, the International Gaming Institute, the Information Science Research Institute, the Center for Volcanic and Tectonic Studies, and the Center for Business and Economic Research.

Hollywood: The success of his father’s tool company enabled Hughes to finance his own movies. Despite the initial skepticism of Hollywood insiders, Hughes produced approximately 40 films from 1926 to 1957. Some of his most acclaimed movies include Hell’s Angels (1930) with Jean Harlow, The Front Page (1931) with Pat O’Brien and Adolphe Menjou, and Scarface (1932), starring Paul Muni. He also ran the film studio RKO Pictures Corporation from 1948 to 1957. As the new owner of RKO, he preferred to make pictures rather than run theatres.

In 1929 Hughes divorced Ella Rice, his wife of four years. He soon afterward dated a number of Hollywood’s most famous actresses, including Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Jean Peters. He married Peters in 1957, but their marriage ended in 1971 due to a mental illness that overcame him in the last decades of his life.

The Carpetbaggers: The Carpetbaggers, a motion picture about the romantic and business exploits of a multimillionaire, was set during the 1920s and 1930s. Released in 1964, this box-office hit stars George Peppard as the ruthless millionaire Jonas Cord, Jr., whose story resembled the life of American manufacturer Howard Hughes.

Jean Harlow: Harlow, Jean (1911-1937), American motion-picture actor and sex symbol, was known as the Blonde Bombshell. After divorcing her husband and adopting her mother’s maiden name, Harlow was discovered by American producer-director Howard Hughes. He cast her in the 1930 sound version of his aviation spectacular Hell’s Angels, and she became famous for delivering the line “Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?”

The Shanghai Gesture: In 1950, Sternberg undertook two films for Howard Hughes at Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO); the thriller Macao (1952), and Jet Pilot (not released until 1957).

Gina Lollobrigida: In 1949 Lollobrigida moved to the United States to work for American movie producer Howard Hughes. But Hughes did not cast her in any films and she returned to Italy after three months.

Trivia: The character Willard Whyte was based on multimillionaire Howard Hughes. Hughes allowed the filmmakers to film in his casinos in exchange for a 16-millimeter print of the finished film.

1974 Bahamas: Bahamas, has long been the tax haven of the wealthy because it has no income tax. In early February 1974, U.S. billionaire Howard Hughes was granted a residence permit there, and a few months later he bought a luxury hotel in the city of Freeport.

University of Maryland: University of Maryland, a public, coeducational institution in Baltimore, Maryland. The school was founded in 1963 and its research facilities include the Howard Hughes Medical Lab.

Fisk University: Fisk University, private, coeducational institution in Nashville, Tennessee. Research facilities at the university include the Fisk Race Relations Institute, the Fisk National Aeronautics and Space Administration Center for Photonic Materials and Devices, and the Howard Hughes Science Learning Center.

University of Nevada: Nevada, Las Vegas, University of public, coeducational institution in Las Vegas, Nevada was founded in 1957. The university is divided into 11 colleges and two schools: the colleges of business and economics, education, fine and performing arts, health sciences, human performance and development, liberal arts, science and mathematics, the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, the Graduate College, the Greenspun School of Communication, and the School of Social Work.

Nevada Politics: Senator Alan Bible and Congressman Walter Baring, both Democrats, won reelection by large margins in November. Baring had no serious opposition, and Bible overcame a strong bid by Lieutenant Governor Edward Fike, a Republican. However, Richard M. Nixon won the three electoral votes at stake in this predominantly Democratic state. For the first time since 1931, Republicans formed a majority in the state assembly, having won 22 seats while the Democrats held on to 18 after the balloting in November. Democrats retained control of the state senate.

Legislation: The 13th special session of the Nevada legislature authorized the state to create a compact with California to keep Lake Tahoe clean and beautiful. Legislation was passed to allow Clark County (Las Vegas) to negotiate with industrialist Howard Hughes for the construction of a supersonic transport terminal in southern Nevada. Hughes offered to trade the terminal for McCarran Airport, which presently serves the county.

Economic Development: Howard Hughes acquired an estimated $150 million in land and buildings after he came to Las Vegas in 1966 and planned to build a “city within a city” at the Sands Hotel adding 4,000 rooms and providing family-type entertainment and recreation.

Education Endowment: Howard Hughes pledged up to $6 million for a medical school at the University of Nevada in Reno. Opposition to the idea was expressed by supporters of Nevada Southern University in Las Vegas, where there was a shortage of classrooms and faculty.

1968 Nevada: The Southern Nevada Water Supply Bond Project was described as the most significant development in Nevada since the construction of Hoover Dam in the late 1930’s. The system cost an estimated $81 million. In 1970, rather than call a special session, Governor Laxalt persuaded financier Howard Hughes to buy a portion of the bonds, and Clark County officials agreed to hold off on projects of lesser emergency until after the legislature met again in regular session in January 1971.

1970 Nevada: Howard Hughes created headlines early in December, when he mysteriously disappeared to the Bahamas and touched off a power struggle among his chief executives. Hughes reportedly ordered Chester C. Davis, a Hughes Tool Company director and its counsel, to fire Robert A. Maheu, Hughes’ chief executive in Nevada, and Jack H. Hooper, Maheu’s deputy. In an early morning telephone call to Governor Laxalt, Hughes was reported to have said that he was personally ordering the Hughes Tool Company to assume control of his Nevada properties. This directive led to a dramatic court battle, with Maheu claiming that Hughes’ signatures on two communications, including the proxy authorizing his dismissal, had been forged. The court ruled against Maheu.

1973 Nevada: Governor Mike O’Callaghan met personally with the elusive Howard Hughes, and Nevada’s spectacular economic growth continued unabated.

1976 Nevada: Legal conflict over the multibillion-dollar estate of Howard Hughes, who died April 5, drew constant attention for the remainder of the year. The Hughes enterprises were generally credited with having had a more favorable impact on Nevada’s economy than any other private endeavor during the past decade. Hughes owned seven hotels and casinos in Las Vegas and Reno, in addition to ranches, mining claims, a television station, a major airline, and vast areas of vacant land. The courts had to determine whether any one of the more than 30 Hughes wills filed in Las Vegas was valid. If not, the courts had to decide how the estate was to be parceled out among the billionaire’s 19 first cousins. Additionally, a decision had to be made as to whether Nevada or Texas was the legal residence of the eccentric recluse. There is no inheritance tax in Nevada. In contrast, Texas could have acquired several hundred million dollars if the state made good its claims to Hughes’ residency.

1972 American Literature (The Hoax): If December 7, 1941, was the “day that will live in infamy,” December 7, 1971, might be called the day that will live in film flummery. That was the date that McGraw-Hill proudly announced that the publishing plum of the year, if not the decade, had fallen into its lap—the autobiography of Howard Hughes. Sixty-seven days later, the world’s largest publishing company grudgingly admitted that what it had was not a plum but a lemon. It was indeed sour fruit. McGraw-Hill had been roundly hoaxed; Howard Hughes’ prickly, garrulous, randy “confessions” had been invented—but not out of whole cloth—by a little-known novelist named Clifford Irving and his sidekick-researcher Richard Suskind.

The firm gave author Clifford Irving, who claimed to be Hughes’s contact and ghostwriter, a $750,000 advance to be delivered to Hughes. However, Hughes came out of seclusion and denied ever having met Irving. Forty-one year old writer Clifford Irving finally admitted that his purported biography of billionaire Howard R. Hughes was a hoax. In 1972 a court ordered the publishing firm to destroy the manuscript and all copies of the book, which was never published.

The two checks totaling $650,000 and intended for Hughes had been cashed by Irving’s wife Edith through a Swiss account she had opened under the name of Helga R. Hughes. The couple, along with research aide Richard Suskind, 46, were indicted in New York in March for attempting to defraud McGraw-Hill of $750,000 All three received prison sentences. After serving two months Mrs. Irving agreed to return to Switzerland to face charges of larceny and forgery. Her husband began serving a 2½-year sentence in August.

Novelist Clifford Irving and his wife Edith were indicted for fraud by the Swiss government on January 31. First claiming that he had written a biography of billionaire Howard R. Hughes with Hughes’ cooperation, Irving later admitted the work was a hoax. The Swiss action resulted from Edith Irving’s cashing $650,000 in checks intended for Hughes in one Swiss bank and depositing the sum in another Swiss bank under the name of Helga R. Hughes. Mrs. Irving, a Swiss national, is awaiting a new trial in Switzerland, after having served a prison sentence in the United States.
Declining Mental Health: In addition to his many achievements, his friends and his acquaintances knew Hughes as a person of bizarre habits and personal tics. There were numerous causes for Hughes’s increasingly strange behavior. From an early age he was quite deaf and could not hear conversations around him, yet he told few people of his disability. He conducted much of his business on the telephone because he could hear better using it.

As a young man, Hughes evidently contracted syphilis, and in his later years he was plagued with neurosyphilis, which is marked by a degeneration of brain cells that can lead to paranoia and other symptoms. In addition, as a test pilot Hughes was involved in numerous plane crashes that some researchers presume resulted in brain injury. The most serious accident occurred in 1946 when an XF-11 reconnaissance plane he was testing for the Air Force crashed, leaving him with massive injuries that caused him pain for the rest of his life. Hughes, who eschewed alcohol and tobacco, was forced to take medications to alleviate his pain. An addiction to codeine, a prescribed painkiller made from opium, began at this time and continued for the remainder of his life.

Finally, but perhaps most important in understanding Hughes’ inability to live a normal life, he became increasingly trapped by what medical professionals today understand was obsessive-compulsive disorder. Many of Hughes’ biographers believe that his mother suffered from the same disease. This mental disorder can cause ritualistic behavior and unusual habits. For example, Hughes became obsessed with germs and cleanliness. The disease went undiagnosed in his lifetime.

Last Years: During the late 1960s and 1970s, Hughes occupied himself buying casinos, hotels, and acres of land in Las Vegas. During this time, he also changed locations constantly, taking precautions to ensure privacy. He was rarely seen by anyone except a few aides. He reportedly worked for days without sleep and became increasingly deranged from little food and an excess of drugs. Some biographers charge that his aides manipulated his finances, withheld crucial information from him, and limited his contact with the world while neglecting his health. Hughes became a recluse and rumors circulated about his mental health.

Death: Hughes died of kidney failure on April 5, 1976 en route by private jet from Acapulco, Mexico to a hospital in Houston. His drastically changed appearance and the fact that he had been seen by so few people for so long forced the Treasury Department to use fingerprints to identify his body. He left an estate estimated at $2 billion. Four hundred prospective heirs tried to inherit it, but it eventually went to twenty-two cousins on both sides of his family. Texas, Nevada and California claimed inheritance tax in disputes reviewed by the Supreme Court three times. Hughes Aircraft ended up in the hands of Hughes Medical Institute, which sold it to General Motors in 1985 for $5 billion. Four hotels and six casinos in Las Vegas and Reno remained with Summa Corporation. It took the courts two decades to sort out his financial holdings and distribute them to heirs. His estate, estimated by some to be worth as much as $2 billion, was officially valued at $360 million by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the states of California and Texas.

Summary: Hughes, Howard Robard (1905-1976), American industrialist, aviator, and motion-picture producer. American Howard Hughes was known as one of the wealthiest men in the world. In the 1930s he founded the Hughes Aircraft Corporation. He was also known as a motion-picture producer and an aviator. At age 11, he erected Houston’s first wireless broadcast set, a communications system that used radio waves to transmit signals and messages across distances. He took his first flying lessons at age 14, establishing his lifelong love of flight.

When he was 16 years old, Hughes’s mother died. Hughes attended private school in Boston, where he was better at golf than class work. Hughes never graduated from high school. Nonetheless, his father arranged for him to sit in on classes at Cal Tech by donating money to the school. A Houston judge and friend of his late father’s granted Howard legal adulthood on December 26, 1924, allowing him to take over the tool company.

Following the summer of 1924, Howard and Ella moved to Hollywood to pursue Howard’s interest in making movies. While shooting Hell’s Angels, Hughes earned his pilot’s license. In 1932, he founded the Hughes Aircraft Corporation, which designed and constructed airplanes for commercial and military use.

The Outlaw (1941) became controversial for its sexually explicit advertising and content, both featuring a sensational décolletage worn by a busty Jane Russell. Hughes built the Texas Theater, the movie house in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas in which Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in 1963. Hughes built the Texas Theater, the movie house in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas in which Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in 1963. Hughes achieved a false status by lobbying the Commerce Department to lower his pilot’s license number from 4223 to 80. Charles Lindbergh’s number was 69.

The only real job Hughes ever had also came in 1933. He signed on as a co-pilot for American Airways. He applied under the name Charles W. Howard. After entering and winning the 1934 All-America Air Meet in Miami, Hughes built and personally test-piloted the world’s most advanced plane, the H-1. One of the outstanding flights of the year, Howard Hughes’ record spin around the world has, so far, produced no available philatelic record. Throughout the 1950s, as the power of three entities grew — the Hughes empire, organized crime, and the new Central Intelligence Agency — it became all but impossible to distinguish between them. By the end of the decade, Hughes’ chief of staff, Robert Maheu, had orchestrated the CIA’s dirtiest secret — plots to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro with the help of two heads of organized crime. Vice President Richard Nixon was the White House action officer in the clandestine attempts to oust Castro.

In 1953, Hughes had founded the Hughes Medical Institute in Delaware as his sole act of philanthropy. It was Howard Hughes’ around-the-world flight from July 10 to July 14, 1938 that transformed him into a national hero. In 1939 American aviator Howard Hughes, a multimillionaire, bought a controlling stake in the TWA airline and sold his controlling stock in 1966.

In March, 1972, 41-year-old writer Clifford Irving finally admitted that his purported biography of billionaire Howard R. Hughes was a hoax. In 1972, Hughes sold Hughes Tool Company’s stock and renamed his company Summa Corporation, ending any remaining role in his business. Despite the initial skepticism of Hollywood insiders, Hughes produced approximately 40 films from 1926 to 1957. In 1953 Hughes founded a new medical research center called the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Rather than call a special session, Governor Laxalt persuaded financier Howard Hughes to buy a portion of the bonds, and Clark County officials agreed to hold off on projects of lesser emergency until after the legislature met again in regular session in January 1971. In early February, 1974 U.S. billionaire Howard Hughes was granted a residence permit, and a few months later he bought a luxury hotel in the city of Freeport.

Howard Hughes pledged up to $6 million for a medical school at the University of Nevada in Reno. Hughes died April 5, 1976 en route by private jet to a hospital in Houston. Hughes died of kidney failure during a flight from Acapulco, Mexico, to Houston, Texas. His estate, estimated by some to be worth as much as $2 billion, was officially valued at $360 million by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the states of California and Texas. His estate, estimated by some to be worth as much as $2 billion, was officially valued at $360 million by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the states of California and Texas.


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