John Wesley Hughes (1852-1932) John Wesley Hughes was born May 16, 1852, in Owen County, Kentucky. He was converted at the age of sixteen in a Methodist revival meeting in an old schoolhouse. Immediately he felt a call to ministry. He received education at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Millersburg, Kentucky, and served as a pastor in the Kentucky Conference of the Methodist Church before pursuing further education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. On July 28, 1881, Hughes married Mary Wallingford. Under much conviction for a deeper work of grace, Hughes was wholly sanctified at Chaplin, Kentucky, on December 30, 1882, and committed himself to furthering the Wesleyan message of Scriptural holiness.
After twelve years as a pastor and one as an evangelist, Hughes felt the Lord leading him to establish a distinctly religious college where students could receive a thorough college education under the direction of a faculty wholly consecrated to God. Hughes stated, “We will endeavor, as a faculty, to do all in our power to lead our students to the Biblical experiences of regeneration and entire sanctification and to live daily a consecrated, holy life with warm hearts and cool heads, always endeavoring to tear down the works of the devil and to build up the Kingdom of God.” The Kentucky Holiness College opened in September 1890 at Wilmore, Kentucky. Feeling that the name seemed pretentious, Hughes changed the name of the school to Asbury College, in honor of Bishop Francis Asbury who had organized the Kentucky Conference of the Methodist Church in 1790 and in the same year established Bethel Academy, a Methodist school and the only one of its kind west of the Allegheny Mountains, just three and a half miles south of Wilmore.
In 1905, after fifteen years as president of Asbury, Hughes was asked to step down by the college board of directors for reasons that are not completely clear today. Despite the painful nature of his removal, Hughes would later write in his 1923 Autobiography, “Being sure that I was led of God to establish (Asbury College), it being my college child born in poverty, mental perplexity, and soul agony, I loved it from its birth better than my own life. As the days have come and gone, with many sad and broken-hearted experiences, my love has increased. My appreciation of what it has done, what it is doing, and what it promises to do in the future, is such that I am willing to lay down my life for its perpetuation.”
In 1906 Hughes founded Kingswood College in Breckenridge County, Kentucky. He served as president of that institution until retiring in 1917 and returning to Wilmore. In 1914, Hughes’ wife, Mary Wallingford Hughes, passed away. He later married Sadie Maude Petty, whom he preceded in death. In 1928 Hughes was invited to break ground for Hughes Auditorium at Asbury College, the school chapel that is still in use today.
Hughes died on February 22, 1932, at his home in Wilmore. His tombstone reads, “FOUNDER OF ASBURY COLLEGE, HE PROFESSED, ADVOCATED, AND DEFENDED THE DOCTRINE OF SANCTIFICATION AS A SECOND WORK OF GRACE. IN FAITH HE LIVED, IN FAITH HE CONQUERED HIS LAST REQUEST: ‘TELL THE ASBURY PREACHERS TO PREACH THE WHOLE TRUTH AND BE TRUE TO THE BIBLE.'”
Bio written by Matt Kinnell