His father Arthur was a secondary school teacher, and mother Maggie was a former elementary school headteacher who educated him at home until age eleven. Hughes had been born in Swindon, but moved with his parents to Bakewell, Derbyshire when he was six, where he attended Bakewell grammar school before becoming a boarder at Manchester Warehousemen's and Clerks' Orphans School at Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire. He won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1935 with a degree in modern history, having been chair of the Oxford University Labour Club.
He started training as a schoolteacher at Manchester University, but left to work in London for the New Fabian Research Bureau (NFRB), which merged in 1938 with the Fabian Society, of which he became secretary. He was elected as a councillor on Lambeth borough council, and in 1937 he married (Winifred) Beryl Parker (died 1995), sister of Romford MP John Parker; they had no children.
During World War II he served with the Royal Artillery, and at the 1945 general election he was as Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton West, holding the seat until the constituency was abolished in 1950. At the 1950 general election, he stood in the new Wolverhampton South West constituency, but was defeated by the Conservative Party candidate Enoch Powell.
In the House of Commons, he spoke in 1945 about his fears of a nuclear arms race. He was parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to the Secretary of State for Education, Ellen Wilkinson, whose secretary from 1937 to 1941 had been his wife Beryl. After Wilkinson's death in 1947, he continued for a year as PPS to her successor George Tomlinson, before becoming PPS to War Office minister Michael Stewart.
Read more about this topic: Billy Hughes (educationist)
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