Born in Woodbury, Tennessee, Hugh L. Preston was the son of a former governor of Tennessee. Educated at the Woodbury Academy and the University of Tennessee, he was admitted to the California Bar January 11, 1909. During the early part of his career, he practiced law with his brother, John W. Preston (who later became a justice on the California Supreme Court). In 1920, he was appointed judge of the Superior Court of Mendocino County, where he served until his appointment to the position of Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, in 1931. He was defeated in election by John Pullen, and left office in October 1932. Preston returned to the private practice of law in Ukiah. He died in San Rafael, April 30, 1947, at age 67.