Nathaniel “Nat” Cheairs Hughes, Jr., Phd., former headmaster of Girls Preparatory School (GPS) , died early Wednesday morning at the age of 81.
A native of Chattanooga and life-long history student, Dr. Hughes received his B.A. in history from Yale University in 1953, a master’s degree and his doctorate degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1956.
Dr. Hughes was commissioned in the United States Marine Corps as a lieutenant, where he served 2 years as an amphibious tank commander. He reached the rank of captain while serving in the Marine Corps Reserve.
He began his educational career in 1959, serving for three years at the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tn., where he coached and taught history and English. He was appointed headmaster of St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, in 1962, where he served for more than 11 years, helping the school grow and prosper.
In 1973, Dr. Hughes moved with his wife and three children to Chattanooga and became headmaster of GPS, where he served faithfully for 14 years. In 1986, he was presented the William R. “Old Sawney” Webb Award “in honor of his distinguished career as a headmaster.”
Upon retiring in 1987, Dr. Hughes turned to his passion for history and writing. He has authored 35 books, including fiction and non-fiction, and in 2000 was awarded the Charles L. Defour Award for a lifetime of achievement in the historiography of the American Civil War.
Dr. Hughes served as a lay reader in the Episcopal Church and as a vestryman in three parishes. He has been a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chattanooga since 1973. He was a member of the Tennessee Historical Society and the Southern Historical Association and was past-president of the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools.
He is survived by his wife, Buckner Latimore Hughes; and children Frank (D’Arcy), Lookout Mountain; David (Kathaleen), Chattanooga; and Sam (Mitzi), Omaha, and grandchildren, Kelsey, David, Jr., Nathan, Scott, Mary, Adam and Samantha.
Details about Dr. Hughes’ memorial service will be announced later.