Hughes, Howard Robard, 1905–76, U.S. business executive, b. Houston. As a young man he inherited (1925) the patent rights to an oil tool drill, which, manufactured by the Hughes Tool Company, formed the basis of his financial empire. His interest in aviation led to the formation of the Hughes Aircraft Corp. in the 1930s, which later became a major U.S. defense contractor. A pilot himself, he set a number of airplane records, including a world record (1935) of 352 mi (566 km) per hr in a plane of his own design. Hughes's interests in the 1920s and 30s also extended to the motion picture industry, and among the films that he produced were such classics as Hell's Angels and The Front Page. Through his parent concern, the Hughes Tool Company, he gained a controlling interest in Trans World Airways (TWA); when he divested himself of his TWA stock in 1966, he received $546.5 million. In the 1960s he purchased a number of gambling casinos in Las Vegas. A billionaire, he became a recluse in later years. His vast business interests involved him in extensive litigation.
See studies by J. Davenport and T. Lawson (1975), D. L. Barlett and J. P. Steele (1981), J. R. Phelan (1989), and P. H. Brown (1996).
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