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Given that March is Women’s History Month, it’s the perfect time to learn more about Jean Amelia Summerlin, the paternal grandmother of Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. for whom the community of Summerlin is named! 

Jean Amelia Summerlin

Jean Amelia was born on May 6, 1842, in Van Buren County, Iowa. The daughter of Thomas Summerlin and Bathsheba Robards, she had nine siblings and went on to marry a railroad executive: Felix Turner Hughes, president of the Keokuk & Western Railroad in Memphis, Missouri.

Settling in Keokuk, Iowa where Felix also practiced law and was elected judge and mayor of the town, the couple went on to have seven children, four of whom died in infancy.  

The couple’s children attended First Ward School and were educated in the arts, history and science, which helped them launch their respective careers. Greta Hughes was an opera singer whose stage name was “Jean Greta;” Rubert Raleigh Hughes was a screen writer and novelist; and Howard Robard Hughes, Sr., was the founder of Hughes Tool Company, inventor of the Sharp-Hughes drill bit during the Texas oil boom, and father of Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., famous business tycoon, aviator and film producer, who purchased the land on which Summerlin sits in the early 1950s.

Jean Amelia Fun Facts? Film actor Jason Robards was a direct descendant of her mother, Bathsheba Robards. And according to urban folklore, Jean Amelia had a phobia of germs, so much so that when her son Howard Robard, Sr. offered to build her a house on Grand Avenue in Keokuk, Iowa, she asked that the house be built without closets because she believed diseases grew in the darkness!

Jean Amelia died in 1928 at the age of 86 in Los Angeles, California and was originally buried at Hollywood Cemetery, but was later re-interred to the Hughes family plot in Iowa.  

Jean Amelia’s surname of Summerlin is now living on for the 120,000-plus residents who call the community home, and nationwide as one of the country’s premier master planned communities. Thank you, Jean Amelia!