Donald Hughes was the oldest son of Chris and Nancy Hughes and also the most concerned with social status. While Don was about to graduate from high school he fell madly in love with an older waitress named Janice Turner. Chris believed that, as parents, he and Nancy should do nothing-let the relationship run its course. However, Nancy disagreed. She thought the older Janice was totally wrong for Don, since Janice was not college educated and Don had plans on becoming a lawyer. Nancy made her opinion perfectly clear to Don as well as Janice. Unfortunately, all Nancy accomplished was to alienate herself from Don. Don resented his mother's interference so much that when she returned to town after a thirteen-week absence (to take care of her ill brother-in-law), he refused to see her. Despite Nancy's criticism, Don and Janice continued seeing each other until, as Chris predicted, the affair fizzled out when Don was in college. After college, Don decided to become a lawyer like his father and he went to law school. It soon became clear that Don didn't want his father's help.. Though Chris tried to give Don the benefit of his years of experience, Don was resentful of any advice from Chris, no matter how well intentioned. After Don turned down working at the Lowell firm, Chris tried to help Don again by getting him a job in attorney Mitch Dru's office. However, Don continued to be so cocky that he argued with the judge during his first trial! Though Chris urged Don to listen to Dru, Chris's advice only made Don resentful and distant. Later, securing a job at the DA's office, a brash Don took so many liberties that he was almost disbarred. Luckily for Don, Chris was able to discredit a witness who put him in hot water, and a grateful Don bonded with his father. After that, Don began working (reluctantly) with his father. Working with his father though wasn't easy since Chris was more conservative than Don.
After failing to get Ellen Lowell to marry him, Don was surprised when a widowed Janice Turner Whipple came back to town with two teenage daughters. Though her younger daughter, Alice, was a joy to have around, her oldest, Debbie, was a terror since she was a sex-pot who smoked, lied, and ran with a fast crowd. Seeing Don renew his romance with Janice displeased Nancy to no end and she warned Don that he'd be making the biggest mistake of his life if he married her. To Nancy's dismay, the two married. Unfortunately, the marriage was strained by his stepdaughter's wild behavior and Nancy's blatant disapproval since she didn't like the idea of Don inheriting an instant family. Disgusted by his mother's attitude, one day, in front of the entire family, Don accused Nancy of ostracizing his new family. Though Chris pleaded with Nancy to made amends, so they wouldn't lose their son, her attempts were blatantly half-hearted and, in disgust, Don and Janice left Oakdale and relocated to Texas.
A few years later, the Hugheses were shocked to learn that Janice had died and Don never informed them. Don felt that his family denied he and Janice years of happiness by interfering in their relationship in high school, and refused all contact. Finally, with the help of Judge Lowell, Don realized that his family wasn't to blame and he moved back to town and slowly repaired his family relationships, especially his relationship with Nancy. While working at the Lowell law firm, Don took the case of a young woman named Amanda Holmes who had just learned she was adopted and was looking for her natural parents. Though he tried, he wasn't totally successful. However, he did learn one interesting fact--Amanda's father, Bill Holmes, was her real father; she was the product of his relationship with another woman. About this time, Bill Holmes was on his deathbed and revealed to Amanda that one bit of information that Don couldn't find--the name of her natural mother: Sara Fuller, Nancy's new friend. Nancy wasn't Sara's only connection to the Hughes family--she was also dating Don and the pair were falling in love. Sara's feelings for Don began to intensify and she even led him to believe that she was selling her interest in her shop so he'd think she wanted to be a traditional wife. Even Nancy, to Chris's irritation, tried to encourage Don to marry Sara, but Don was wary at the idea.
Finally, Sara's charms wore him down and he proposed. Unfortunately, this set the stage for disaster. For it was then that Amanda finally learned that Sara was her mother. Having documented proof that Sara was her biological mother (from a letter she received on her 22nd birthday), Amanda, who had a crush on Don, jealously confronted Sara and threatened to tell Don of Sara and Bill Holmes 's indiscretion if Sara didn't break off the engagement. Incredulous, Sara chased Amanda around the room in order to get her hands on the letter and took a fatal fall! Though both Don and Nancy were certain that Amanda had brutally murdered Sara, Chris disagreed and was successfully able to prove that it was an accident. After the trial, Amanda would mature into a well-adjusted young lady and she and Don would briefly date. Later, Don found himself in a professional rivalry with Attorney Dick Martin, who was hired at the firm. Though Don tried to get Dick to resign, he was unsuccessful and again left Oakdale.
Don returned to the family when Chris had a heart attack and immediately started criticizing Bob and Dr. David Stewart of being too cautious regarding Chris's care. Though Don demanded that Chris be given experimental surgery, Chris agreed with Bob when he insisted it wasn't necessary. It turned out that Bob was right and Chris made a full recovery.. To everyone's surprise, Don became involved with his former sister-in-law, Lisa. However, at the same time she was dating Don, Lisa was seeing a preacher named Wally Martin who she described as the "gentlest man I've ever known." Don was getting jealous of Lisa and Wally's relationship and asked his nephew Tom, who was now studying law, to investigate him. Tom refused and although Lisa did accept Don's marriage proposal, she kept dragging her feet about setting a date because she wasn't sure which man she wanted to be with. However, the choice was made for her when Don, tired of waiting around, broke the engagement and left town again for California.
Don returned a few years later and started working again for the family law firm. Soon, he became enchanted by Joyce Colman and quickly married her, despite everyone's warnings. As everyone warned, Joyce was a selfish woman and continually nagged Don to make more money so they could afford more luxuries. Don was in love with her, however, and did whatever he could to provide her with more money, even demanding raises at the firm. Soon, tragedy struck. One night, after Don came home early from a business trip, Joyce, who had recently miscarried a baby, shot Don and he was paralyzed. Joyce claimed that she thought Don was a burglar. Later, Don would learn the horrible truth: Joyce was trying to kill her ex-lover.Don's friend, Ralph Mitchell. When Don learned that not only did his wife get pregnant by another man, but she tried to murder the father, he immediately divorced her.
After Joyce's betrayal, Don found himself confiding in his secretary, Mary Ellison. Mary helped Don overcome his paralysis and they fell in love. Wary of his feelings, since he'd been hurt already, Don tried to deny his growing feelings but couldn't when Mary was involved in a car accident. However, Mary was reluctant to admit that she'd fallen for Don since she was already engaged to Ralph Mitchell and didn't want to hurt him. However, Ralph, a friend to both Mary and Don, realized that her heart belonged to Don and he set her free. After Don and Mary married, the couple settled in California, where Mary gave birth to Don's daughter.
A few years later, Don returned to Oakdale to celebrate his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and for his father’s funeral later that same year. Years later, Don and Mary attended an anniversary party for Bob and his wife, Kim, a long time friend to the Hughes family.