Howard Hughes Biography

Howard Hughes was an American aviator, business tycoon, philanthropist and also a film maker. This biography explores his childhood, career, achievements and timeline.

Howard Hughes
Quick Facts

Nick Name: Spruce Goose

Birthday: December 24, 1905

Nationality: American

Famous: Quotes By Howard Hughes Recluses

Died At Age: 70

Sun Sign: Capricorn

Also Known As: Howard Robard Hughes Jr.

Born in: Humble, Texas, US

Famous as: Entrepreneur, Aerospace Engineer, Filmmaker, Inventor, Aviator, Philanthropist


Spouse/Ex-: Ella Rice (m. 1925–1929), Jean Peters (m. 1957–1971), Terry Moore (m. 1949–1976)

father: Howard Robard Hughes Sr.

mother: Allene Gano

Died on: April 5, 1976

place of death: Houston, Texas, U.S

Diseases & Disabilities: Asperger's Syndrome

Cause of Death: Drug Overdose

U.S. State: Texas

Founder/Co-Founder: Hughes Aircraft Company

More Facts

awards: 1936-1938 - Harmon Trophy
1938 - Collier Trophy
1940 - Octave Chanute Award

1939 - Congressional Gold Medal

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Howard Robard Hughes Jr. was a man of many talents and interests and made his name as a business magnate, investor, aviator, aerospace engineer, film maker and philanthropist. He inherited his family's successful oil tool business and began investing in films. He gained eminence in Hollywood from the late 1920s, making big-budget and often controversial films such as, The Racket, Hell's Angels, Scarface, and The Outlaw. He was one of the most significant aviators in history. Besides designing and building planes, he risked his own life several times testing planes and setting new world air speed. While he is credited with many aviation innovations such as the first retractable landing gear, he is also remembered for one of his biggest flops—the Spruce Goose. He acquired and expanded Trans World Airlines, which later merged with American Airlines. He established the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Miami, Florida, something close to his heart since losing his mother as a child. Hughes is also remembered for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle in later life, caused in part by a worsening obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and chronic pain. At the time of his death, he was one of the wealthiest people in the world and perhaps the loneliest.

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Howard Hughes
Childhood & Early Life
  • Howard Robard Hughes, Jr was born on December 24, 1905 to Howard R. Hughes, Sr., and Allene Stone Gano who were industrialists. His birthplace is uncertain recorded as either Humble or Houston, Texas.
  • As a boy, he showed a great inclination towards engineering and built Houston’ first radio transmitter and a motorized bicycle before he was12. He liked math, flying and took flying lessons at 14.
  • He lost his mother in 1922 and father two years later and inherited 75 percent of the family fortune. On his 19th birthday, he took complete control of his legacy.
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  • Hughes moved to Los Angeles, where he hoped to make a name for himself making movies. When his first attempt failed, he hired Noah Dietrich to head the movie subsidiary of his tool company.
  • His first two films, Everybody's Acting and Two Arabian Knights, were financial successes - the latter (directed by Lewis Milestone in 1928), won an Academy Award for Best Comedy Direction.
  • He produced the crime film ‘The Racket’ in 1928 and ‘The Front Page’, a comedy film, three years later. Both the films were nominated for the Oscars.
  • He spent US$3.8 million to make the 1930 flying film, Hell’s Angels, and earned nearly $8 million above production and advertising costs. It received one Academy Award nomination, and its aviation sequences remain unequaled.
  • In 1932, he founded the Hughes Aircraft Company in Glendale, California. Under the pseudonym "Charles Howard" he got a job as a baggage handler for American Airlines and became a co-pilot within weeks.
  • On September 13, 1935, he set a new land speed record of 352.46 M.P.H. at Santa Ana, California, in the Silver Bullet, the world’s fastest plane, built by Hughes Aircraft.
  • In 1937, he made the world's greatest long-distance speed flight, setting a new transcontinental record from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, of seven hours, twenty-eight minutes - an improvement over his own record.
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  • In 1938, he flew around the world in a record three days, nineteen hours, and seventeen minutes, with four crewmen, in a Lockheed Model 14 twin-engine transport and returned home to a ticker-tape welcome.
  • In 1939, he quietly purchased a majority share of TWA stock for nearly US$7 million and took control of the airline, but was forced by the federal courts to sell his shares later.
  • He directed the 1943 Western film, The Outlaw, which starred Jane Russell. He designed a special bra for his leading lady, and turned the actress into a sex symbol and a Hollywood icon.
  • The Hughes D-2, an American fighter and bomber project begun by him as a private venture never proceeded past the flight testing phase but was the predecessor of the Hughes XF-11.
  • The Hughes XF-11, a prototype military reconnaissance aircraft was designed by him for the USAF. Although 100 F-11s were ordered in 1943, only two prototypes were completed and subjected to Senate investigation.
  • Involved in a near-fatal aircraft accident in 1946 while performing the first flight of the reconnaissance aircraft, the XF-11 near California, he sustained serious injuries and was rescued by Marine Master Sgt. Durkin.
  • The Hughes H-4 Hercules popularly called the Spruce Goose was a prototype heavy transport aircraft designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft company. After its only flight in 1947, the project was aborted.
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  • He gained control of RKO Pictures which suffered because of his capricious management style. He sold the company to the General Tire and Rubber Company for $25 million in 1955.
Major Works
  • In 1947, Hughes proved skeptics wrong with a surprise test flight of the HK-1 in The Long Beach, California, lasting less than sixty seconds, one of the most famous flights ever.
  • In 1953, he launched the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Miami, Florida, with the express goal of basic biomedical research, including trying to understand, in Hughes' words, the "genesis of life itself."
Awards& Achievements
  • Hughes was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1939, in recognition of his achievements in advancing the science of aviation and thus bringing great credit to his country and the world.
  • He was presented with the Octave Chanute Award in 1940 for outstanding contribution made by him as a pilot or test personnel to the advancement of arts, science and technology and aeronautics.
  • Between 1952 and 2003, he was inducted into the Aviation Hall Of Fame, International Aerospace Hall Of Fame and Nevada Business Hall Of Fame, the last two posthumously.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • Hughes married twice, first to Ella Rice and then actress Jean Peters. He dated many famous women, including Billie Dove, Bette Davis, Ava Gardner, Olivia de Havilland, Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Gene Tierney.
  • As early as the 1930s, he displayed signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder which only worsened with time. The numerous aircraft crashes left him in pain and physically dependent. He became very reclusive and eccentric towards his end.
  • In 2004, his early life was depicted in the feature film The Aviator, played by Leonardo DiCaprio who was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the aviator.
  • This maverick aviator once dated 3 ladies at the same time and the same place and would have gotten away except one of them got suspicious with his frequent excuses to leave the table.||Q
  • He rejected actor Clark Gable because he thought Clark’s ears were too large and called James Cagney a "little runt". He thought both will amount to nothing but he was wrong.

1. Scarface (1932)

  (Action, Film-Noir, Drama, Thriller, Crime)

2. Hell's Angels (1930)

  (Drama, War)

3. Cock of the Air (1932)


4. His Kind of Woman (1951)

  (Thriller, Action, Crime, Romance, Film-Noir)

5. The Age for Love (1931)


6. Two Arabian Knights (1927)

  (Comedy, Romance, Adventure)

7. The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947)


8. The Racket (1928)

  (Crime, Film-Noir, Drama)

See the events in life of Howard Hughes in Chronological Order

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- Howard Hughes Biography
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Last Updated
- January 08, 2018

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