History Maker Clara Hughes Turns 99

Lifelong friends and family honor Mrs. Clara Hughes l-r; Justina Willis, Julia Daniel, Faye Curd, Mrs. Clara Hughes, and Alma Griffin Fletcher.

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — If you sit at the feet of this elder, she will take you back through time almost a hundred years.

Meet Mrs. Clara Curd Hall Hughes. In September she will celebrate her 99th birthday. Still

Clara Curd Hall Hughes, first African American female maintenance supervisor hired during the Secret City Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, TN. Photos by Vivian Shipe

driving her car, quick witted and with a sharp mind; she remembers, oh how she remembers.

She was the first African American female maintenance supervisor hired into Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She was part of the Secret City Manhattan Project. Clara is quick to tell you they had no idea of what was being built in that man made city that would quickly bring World War II to an end.

She was so talented she became a trainer for the plant and would spend ten of her 30 year career there training others.

Her eyes danced as she remembers her two husbands who have gone to heaven. She remembers running three miles to the coal mines when they sent word her first husband Freeman Hughes had been in a dynamite blast and how they put him in a little pony cart and  took him to the colored house in Knoxville set up next to General Hospital were they worked to save his life.

They were married when she was 17 and when he died, they had been married over 49 years. She then smiled with great love in her eyes as she remembered her second husband, a realtor by the name of Frank Hughes who wooed her till she married him and  who never let her leave the house without saying to her, “Darling, I love you, be careful”. He would say it every day of their married life untill he died.

Her family and lifelong friends are celebrating her the whole month of September. She

Mrs. Hughes blows out celebratory candle in honor of her 99th year

loves a good time. She was an avid softball player for many years and she laughed as she remembered being a very very good jitterbug dancer and traveling up to Knoxville from Oliver Springs where she has lived her life to see the great Cab Callaway and dancing the night away.

She was baptized in the creek at 17 and has been a member of Little Leaf Baptist Church for over 80 years.

She gives God the glory for her long life and health. In 99 years, She has only had her appendix removed and her left knee operated on.

She ended the three hour lunch celebration looking forward to the next event celebration of living her life like it’s golden and leaving those around her wanting to be like her when they grow up.

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