Russell B. Cummings
|Russell Bennett Cummings|
|Texas State Representative from Harris County (District 22)|
|Preceded by||Jacob E. Johnson|
|Succeeded by||A. Sidney Bowers, III|
October 6, 1925|
Houston, Harris County, Texas, USA
|Died||April 18, 2008
Waco, McLennan County, Texas, USA
|Spouse(s)||Dorothy Hensley Cummings (married 1949-his death)|
David Malcolm Cummings (born 1950)
|Alma mater||University of Houston|
Russell Bennett Cummings (October 6, 1925 – April 18, 2008) was a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives from District 22 in Harris County from 1967 to 1971, who is best known for having worked for passage of the state's open meetings and open beaches laws. He lost his bid for a third term in the 1970 general election to Republican A. Sidney Bowers, III. According to the Houston Chronicle, Cummings was a "Democrat living in a Republican-leaning district. [But] his "legislative record was conservative enough to have satisfied conservative Republicans." In that same election, Republican U.S. Representative George H. W. Bush lost his celebrated race against Lloyd Bentsen, for the United States Senate seat vacated by Ralph W. Yarborough, whom Bentsen had defeated in the Democratic primary.
In addition to his open meetings and beaches legislation, Cummings procured the passage of legislation to allow public school districts to provide taxpayer-funded kindergartens. He fell short in his attempt to provide a life sentence without parole for certain violent crimes committed with a firearm. Cummings obtained passage of a bill supported by the interest group, the Texas Nurses Association, which formalized professional practices. He obtained the first "work release program that authorized non-violent criminals to work outdoors, a measured supported by the Texas Fish Farmers Association. Cummings served on the House Appropriations, Parks and Wildlife, Transportation, House Administration, and Penitentiary committees. He was vice chairman of the Public Education Committee. His legislative tenure corresponded with the first two terms of Governor John Connally.
Early years, family, education, military
Cummings was born in the previous Methodist Hospital in Houston to Glen Souter Cummings and the former Florella Vera. He was descended from William Cummings, one of the three hundred families originally settled in Texas by Stephen F. Austin. His mother was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Cummings attended Woodrow Wilson Elementary and Sidney Lanier Middle schools and graduated at the age of sixteen in 1942 from Mirabeau B. Lamar Senior High School. He then attended Lon Morris College, a Methodist-affiliated junior college in Jacksonville in east Texas for the spring semester of 1943. He and an older brother, Glenn Malcolm Cummings, thereafter joined the United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps. Cummings recalled having marched down Canal Street in New Orleans during the Armistice Day parade on November 11, 1943. In New Orleans just after Christmas 1943, Cummings boarded his first ship, the S.S. Delmar, built at Hog Island, Pennsylvania. In 1945, he graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point on Long Island, New York, having procured a license to sail as a Third Officer on any merchant ship in any ocean and a commission as an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve.
After the war, Cummings attended the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston and accumulated enough semester hours to earn a bachelor of science degree in transportation. On June 25, 1949, at the First Methodist Church of Houston, Cummings married the former Dorothy Hensley (born August 23, 1929, in Newnan, Georgia), a receptionist and switchboard operator. The couple had two children, David Malcolm Cummings (born 1950) and Karen Ann Cummings Garrett (born 1952), and two grandsons, Russell Bennett Lang and Carl Thompson Norwood.
Cummings joined the Houston Jaycees, or United States Junior Chamber and in 1960 was elected president of the chapter. Thereafter, he was appointed chairman of the Jaycees Americanism Committee, which sponsored the first "Old Fashion Fourth of July Celebration" was held at Hermann Park in Houston, with a fireworks show, military band, patriotic speaker, and American flags. The Jaycees expected possibly 1,500 people, but 35,000 appeared and created what Cummings remembered as "a terrific traffic jam." He was thereafter appointed a director of the full Houston Chamber of Commerce and of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, then called the "Fat Stock" Show. In 1963, the Jaycees named Cummings "Outstanding Public Official" in Harris County.
Cummings formerly operated a service station at Richmond and Montrose streets in Houston. In 1956, he launched a moving and storage business. He was vice president of the Houston chapter of the Texas Service Station Association and the Houston Movers Association and the president of the Richwood Civic Club. The Cummingses lived in Richwood from 1955 to 1973, when he became executive director of the Texas Mass Transportation Commission, which merged into the Texas Department of Transportation. He hence relocated to Austin.
Cummings retired from state employment in 1993. In the fall of 1994, he relocated to his ranch between Hamilton (Hamilton County) and Goldthwaite (Mills County) in central Texas, where he raised Brangus cattle. "Our ranch was the third one in Texas to be certified as a "Texas Quality Beef Producer" by the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association," Cummings wrote in his self-penned obituary in the Austin American-Statesman.
Death and burial
Cummings died of cancer at the age of eighty-two at his residence in Waco, the seat of McLennan County. He was survived by his wife, the former Dorothy Hensley (born August 23, 1929), and two children, David Malcolm Cummings and Karen Ann Cummings Garrett. Cummings is interred at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Since 1851, soldiers and founders of the Republic of Texas and the state itself as well as elected officials, jurists, and others who have made "a significant contribution to Texas history, government, and culture" have been interred in the state cemetery.
- Texas Library and Archives, Austin, Texas, 512-463-5455
- "Russell Bennett Cummings". Statesman.com. Retrieved 2009-03-19.
Jacob E. Johnson
|Texas State Representative from Harris County (District 22)
Russell Bennett Cummings
A. Sidney Bowers, III