On Sept. 9, the Texas Department of Transportation will present the Lloyd “Pete” Hughes Memorial Committee with a highway sign designating U.S. Highway 77 through Refugio County as the Second Lieutenant Lloyd “Pete” Hughes Medal of Honor Memorial Highway.
The highway designation was the result of legislation carried by State Representative Geanie Morrison (Victoria) and State Senator Lois Kolkhorst (Brenham) during the 87th Texas Legislature’s regular session.
In addition to the highway designation legislation, Sen. Kolkhorst authored a Senate Concurrent Resolution, SCR 10, commemorating the valor of Hughes, a Refugio native son and graduate of Refugio High School, and the Committee’s commitment to design and install a memorial in honor of Hughes.
According to Committee Chair Mike Slack of Austin, “The sign presentation event marks the successful completion of the first of two goals the committee established after its formation in 2020.” The committee will now focus on its goal of installing a memorial to Hughes on the Refugio ISD campus. The Event Chair, Mark Richardson of Houston, points out that the sign presentation event will be conducted near the site of the planned memorial. Richardson added that the outline of the future memorial plaza will be indicated by small U.S. flags placed by Refugio County Veterans.
After leaving Refugio, Hughes attended Texas A&M University leaving in early 1942 to enlist in the Army Air Corps. Hughes received the Medal of Honor for valor on August 1, 1943, when he piloted a B-24 bomber in Operation Tidal Wave, a daring, low-level raid on the Axis oil fields in Ploiesti, Romania. Hughes’ plane was near the back of his formation approaching an oil refinery that had already been hit and was burning. His bomber was struck by enemy antiaircraft fire as it approached the target and gasoline gushed from the plane in multiple places. Focusing on his task and rejecting calls to break off his attack, Lt. Hughes remained in formation, entered the inferno, and dropped his bombs precisely on target. His plane emerged from the caldron with its left wing on fire, and he calmly diverted his plane from the formation and attempted a crash landing in a riverbed south of Câmpina, Romania. Lt. Hughes and five other members of his crew lost their lives during the attempt to save the aircraft and crew; two additional crew members later died of their injuries and two others were captured by the enemy.
Hughes became the first Aggie Medal of Honor recipient in World War II. Through the committee’s efforts, Hughes will finally be recognized by the current and former citizens of Refugio and the school where he was an exemplary student and multi-sport athlete. Committee member and Refugio ISD Superintendent Melissa Gonzales stated, “The Pete Hughes story exemplifies the kind of leadership and dedication that we seek to instill in our students and faculty. We are extremely proud to call him one of our own and to have him commemorated with a memorial on our campus.”
Slack concluded by stating that U.S. 77 will now serve as the driveway to and from the Hughes Memorial.
The sign presentation ceremony will take place on Sept. 9 at 1:15 p.m. on the Refugio ISD campus.