Doug Hughes was born in San Mateo County, California, and grew up in Santa Cruz. He graduated from Holy Cross High School in Santa Cruz and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving aboard the USS Enterprise as an electrician’s mate third class. Hughes worked as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier from 2003-2015.
Doug was deeply affected by the suicide of his son, John, in August 2012. Doug told the Tampa Bay Times that his protest had been a response to this, suggesting that his son had, “paid far too high a price for an unimportant issue, but if you’re willing to take a risk, the ultimate risk, to draw attention to something that does have significance, it’s worth doing.”
And that’s exactly what he did. On April 15, 2015, Doug took off from Gettysburg, PA in his gyrocopter carrying 535 letters to Congress, individually stamped and addressed to each member of Congress. The flight was broadcast over the internet and was covered by media stations across the country.
Following his return to Florida, Hughes did a number of interviews from his home while under house arrest. These included interviews on “Good Morning America”, “Hannity,” and “Democracy Now,” among others. In the interviews Hughes argued for the need to reverse the Supreme Court decision, “Citizens United and reduce the influence of wealth on American politics.
Hughes flight triggered media discussion on the subject of money in politics. In an editorial for Huffingtonpost, John Ennis presented asked, “what other recourse did he have?” while Jon Stewart declared “Kudos to that guy!” after dubbing the incident “Wack Hawk Down”.
The co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Ben Cohen, wrote an editorial supporting Hughes’ flight as a legitimate act of civil disobedience. Other political personalities, including Ralph Nader and former representatives Connie Morella (R-MD) and Dan Glickman (D-KS) teamed up to write an editorial “We Are Gyrocopter,” which decried “special interest” and “corrosive big money’s” influence on American politics.
The gyrocopter flight inspired art in a variety of venues. Soon after the flight, street art depicting the flight showed up in LA. Two different songs were written, “Ballad of Doug Hughes” by Paul Loether and “Superhero Autogyro” by Curtis Long. An award-winning video, “An American Mailman’s Flight for Freedom” was produced by Joseph Huff-Hannon.
Exactly a year after the Hughes flight, a march from Philadelphia to the US Capitol kicked off a week of peaceful civil disobedience. In the protest dubbed “Democracy Spring” over 1300 arrests were made at the Capitol Building in a protest of “Citizens United”. Among the groups supporting “Democracy Spring” was “Code Pink”, the women’s peace group. Media Benjamin, co-founder of “Code Pink” said of the assembly of thousands: “I think it’s fair to say that this is his his baby.”
Today, Doug is still committed to the cause and works with other leaders in the movement to get big money out of politics.