Born in Kingston, Missouri, Hughes attended the common schools and graduated from Richmond College in 1871. He then graduated from the law department of the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1873, was admitted to the bar in 1877, and commenced practice at Richmond, Missouri.
He was a pioneer of the early English game, being included in the publication 'Association Football and the Men who made it'. He was also a governor for Witton Grammar School. Hughes played a huge role in the development of association football, both in his home town, county, and in England.
His playing career unfortunately ended when his ankle was broken by an opposition player on 15 November 1877, during a football match at the Drill Field, Northwich, against Hanley Rangers. On his retirement from the Cheshire Football Association in 1908, his tenure of 30 years as the honourable secretary was a World record, and his service was commended by figures from across the country, including those representing the Football Association. Aside from football, he was a figurehead in several other sport clubs in Northwich.
Cricket, rowing and athletics. In the 1890s for example, he was referee of the 1891, 1893 and 1894 finals, as well as various Football League and local matches. He also acted as linesman for International matches.
In 1892 he was linesman for a match between England and Scotland at Ibrox. In 1901, Hughes served as the FA's vice president. In 1907 and 1908, he was often in charge of selecting the squad for the England national football team for international matches, making him the de facto manager.
Testament to his influence in Association Football, the former secretary of Northwich Victoria, the late Ken Edwards, who wrote the club's history in the book 'A Team for All Seasons', said that "few men have done more for the association game than Mr. C.J. Hughes." Following his death on 31 July 1916, he was buried at St. Wilfrid's Church in the nearby village of Davenham.
Soon after this he rose to prominence in his home town as a member of the Northwich and District Urban Council and honourable auditor for several local infirmaries. Hughes was an important member of the FA during their first few decades.