LaVerne Hughes, Class of 1970

Kewpie of the Month, November 2018

Daughter carries family’s creative tradition forward


From the “Columbia Daily Tribune”

Posted Feb 20, 2015 at 12:01 AM

Updated Feb 20, 2015 at 1:00 PM


Not all of Columbia’s Hughes Family members play an instrument. At least one discovered the melody, harmony and syncopation of life not with a piano, but with the lyrical voice of the written word.

When the Musical Hughes Family captured the interest of Columbia in the 1930s and 1940s, Vernon Hughes and his wife, Evalene, had three children: Vernon Jr., Mary Elizabeth and Lewis. Junior was the oldest and the pianist.

When the Hughes kids grew up by 1950 -- Mary to raise a family, Lewis to enter the Army, settle in Indianapolis and make music for half a century with a new incarnation of the Musical Hughes Family -- Junior remained in Columbia, working three jobs, always too busy to make music again.

He was a janitor at the University of Missouri, had an office-cleaning business and painted houses. He raised a family of seven kids. He died May 21, 1986.

One of his daughters, La Verne, found art -- not music -- to be her passion. Born in 1952, La Verne attended her first two years of school at segregated Douglass School and then moved to Ridgeway for four years. At Jefferson Junior High, she became interested in art and planned to enter an art institute after graduating from Hickman High in 1970.

Eliot Battle was her counselor at Hickman; he directed La Verne to Stephens College, with the help of a Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship. Four years later, she graduated from Stephens with a degree in fine arts with an emphasis on fashion design.

She spent a year in design tailoring at the Jones Store in Kansas City, married, became a mom, followed her husband to Lincoln University and divorced -- but stayed around to earn a master’s degree in education four years later.

Life came at La Verne with a rush. She worked at Westinghouse in Jefferson City as an accountant, raised three kids, patented a picture frame capable of holding a finished jigsaw puzzle in place without glue and took back a life not quite fulfilled.

“When I was at Ridgeway, I could outrun all the boys, and when I came to Stephens, I could hit a golf ball farther than anyone. But work, study and family left me no time to pursue athletic competition,” La Verne says.

Now at age 62, she’s finding fulfillment as a writer.

“I started by writing poems at Ridgeway and continued at Jeff Junior and Hickman. At Stephens, I submitted a term paper that prompted my teacher to suggest I look at writing as a career. I didn’t.

“The gift was there, but it took two decades for it to finally surface. Now I have my third book at the publisher.”

Her first book was self-published in 1998. Titled “Our Homeless Deserve Better,” it was reprinted in 2004 and is in rewrite for her current publisher, Tate Publishing & Enterprises LLC.

Why the homeless? “I had a chance to be homeless, but I survived, and I needed to let the world know about their world,” she says.

La Verne’s second book, “The Trip of a Lifetime,” is a Christian, fictional novel about a sheltered 18-year-old woman who is allowed by her overprotective parents to attend the senior prom only to be drugged by a drink laced with a psychedelic.

Her LSD journey takes the heroine to places she had only imagined. When she emerges, she is in a mental institution. Eventually, she recovers and comes to understand her parents’ concerns.

“Trip of a Lifetime” is directed at high school students; Hickman High has two copies in its library.

“If Only ...” is the third book. It is the story of an African king who goes to war and loses, falling from the throne to utter failure in the eyes of his countrymen. Only because of the love of his queen does he manage to survive.

“Trip of a Lifetime” is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. “If Only ...” is in the final stage of editing.

La Verne Hughes moved to Birmingham, Ala., a year ago to live with her daughter, Kimberlie Patton. She operates publishing and design businesses. “They’re more glorified hobbies than businesses,” she says, “but they keep me busy. They keep that Hughes Family creativeness alive.”

La Verne retained her Columbia phone number and will update you on her books at 573-529-0355.

La Verne Hughes died Aug. 30, 2018, in Birmingham, Alabama.

From the "Columbia Missourian" (September 10, 2018) Submitted by the family.

La Verne Hughes, Feb. 14, 1952 — Aug. 30, 2018

Longtime Columbia resident La Verne Hughes died Aug. 30, 2018, in Birmingham, Alabama, after long illness. She was born Feb. 14, 1952. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Stephens College in 1974 and her Master of Education degree from Lincoln University in 1980.

She was the author of two fiction books: “The Trip of a Lifetime” (2012) and “If Only...” (2015). She was also the author of one nonfiction work, “Our Homeless Deserve Better” (2016). In February 2015, La Verne’s creative talent was recognized by the Columbia Daily Tribune in an article entitled, “Daughter Carries Family’s Creative Tradition Forward.”

La Verne was the mother of three children, Travis Hughes, Kim Patton and Nicole West. She was the grandmother of 10 grandchildren. She was known for her warm smile, bubbly laughter and caring personality. She was a woman of faith who lived it every day.

She was preceded in death by her father, Vernon Hughes Jr., and grandfather, Vernon Hughes Sr., who were noted African-American jazz musicians. Also preceding in her death was her grandmother, Evelyna Hughes, and mother, Mable Slater.

La Verne is survived by her three children; her stepmother, Charlotte Hughes; her siblings, Abdullah (Stanley Hughes) Mulazim, Margaret Jo Webb, Vernetta Hughes, Everette Hughes and Maria Hughes Dawson; and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins.

The Celebration of Life for La Verne Hughes will be at noon Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, at the Kingdom Hall, 301 W. Smiley Lane, Columbia, MO.

Kewpie Memorial Page - Class of 1970 Memorial

Back to Kewpie of the Month Page