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Hugh E. Chance

Hugh ChanceOn December 28, 1911, Hugh Emery Chance was born in a modest home, in a small community on the Kansas prairie.  His parents were Hugh Chester and Edna Johnson Chance.  Later, in the prime of his life, for its first three, critical decades, he was a member of the Universal House of Justice of the Bahá’í (Bahai) Faith, its highest governing council, guiding the planet toward becoming a world at peace.

   Who would have thought it, that winter day when he was born?

   How did such a transition occur: Kansas country boy to international administrator?

The small town where he was born was Winfield, Cowley County, Kansas. The year after his birth the family moved to a farm in the rural community of Tisdale, six miles east. The family left Kansas, in 1922, for Davenport, Iowa, where his father attended Palmer Chiropractic. Hugh attended the University of Iowa and graduated with a juris doctorate in 1934 and married Margaret Chamberlain.

After the United States entered World War II, he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy.  His father told him to look up friends in Australia he had known when they too attended Palmer College.  Through them he learned about the Bahá’í Faith which he and his wife accepted.

A short time later he found himself elected Bahá’í delegate for the area.  In December 1961 he was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, then its Secretary

In April 1963 Hugh went to Haifa to participate in the first election of the Universal House of Justice.  After the balloting, the names of those receiving the greatest number of votes was called, and one was his.  He was shocked and wanted to resign.  His wife encouraged him to accept, and he did.  He served there for the next thirty years of this life. 

In that time the Bahá'í World increased in size from 56 National Spiritual Assemblies around the world to 165. The Seat of the House of Justice was designed, constructed and occupied and plans initiated for construction of four buildings on the arc across that mountain plus the final 18 garden terraces up and down the mountain.  Several additional books of Bahá’í scripture were translated into English and published.  And the Second Bahá’í World Congress was held in New York City in 1992 attended by 27,000 Bahá’ís from all corners of the planet.  He co-authored a richly illustrated book on the Bahá’í World Center, its history, buildings and purpose.

He resigned effective April 1993, and moved back to Kansas. After a stroke from which she never fully recovered, Margaret died in 1996. Two years later, on March 25, 1998, he also died and was buried next to Margaret in Tisdale Cemetery just a short distance from the farm site where he grew up.  He had left Kansas a regular farm boy and returned after a career as an international executive and administrator, an asset to Kansas.

Entry: Chance, Hugh E.

Author: Duane L. Herrmann

Author information: Herrmann has degrees in education and history from Fort Hays State University. He has published widely on the history of the Bahai faith with publications now in a dozen countries in four languages. His history book By Thy Strengthening Grace received the Ferguson, Kansas, History Book Award in 2007. He has actively studied the Bahai faith since 1969.

Date Created: September 2015

Date Modified: February 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.