Mahailiah Hughes, the retired longtime circuit court clerk who made history by becoming the first woman elected to a countywide public office in Sumner County, died Friday, May 29. She was 80.
A lifelong resident of Sumner County, Hughes was described as a “perfectionist” who “ran a great office” and was “excellent at her job,” according to retired Sumner County General Sessions and Criminal Judge Jane Wheatcraft.
“She ran that court system very efficiently,” Wheatcraft recalled about her friend and former colleague Friday. “She was an integral part of it. There’s no question about it. Sumner County has lost a good one.”
Hughes began her career in local government working as a deputy clerk in 1965. She was elected as circuit court clerk in 1978 and served nine terms in office before retiring after 36 years in 2014.
During her career, Hughes worked alongside countless judges, attorneys, deputies, jurors and members of the public in the county’s circuit, criminal and general sessions courts.
“She was a wonderful clerk,” Wheatcraft added. “She was very thorough, and I always knew that Mahailiah was keeping the books correctly. She was good to the attorneys; she was helpful when they needed to set their cases and things like that.
“She served the people well and we were lucky to have her.”
In addition to being a member and past registration chair for the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers, Hughes was also a past president of the County Officials Association of Tennessee, which inducted her into its hall of fame in 2018.
She has also been recognized by her peers as the Most Outstanding Tennessee Judicial Court Clerk and the Outstanding County Official for the State of Tennessee.
In 2014, Hughes made history again when she became the first elected official to receive one of Sumner County’s highest honors – The Order of the Horse.
Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt, who presented the award, described Hughes as someone who “served with integrity and honor” that was “genuinely respected and admired” by everyone.
“When Mahailiah retired, she was the longest serving elected official and she really was a mentor to a lot of other elected officials,” Holt added. “She set an example and she will be missed.”
A private funeral entombment service for Hughes was held Monday, June 1 at Sumner Memorial Gardens Mausoleum.
In lieu of flowers, her family requests memorial donations be made to the Saints and Sinners Sunday School Class at First United Methodist Church in Gallatin c/o Charles R. Tomkins, P.O. Box 741, Gallatin, Tenn. 37066.