CUMMINGS, RUSSELL BENNETT (1925 ~ ). The following is a family-placed obituary for Russell Bennett Cummings, former Member of the Texas House of Representatives. The document was provided by Weed - Corley - Fish Funeral Home.
"Russell Bennett Cummings died on April 18th, in Austin, as a result of cancer. I ought to know since I was there; it was me!
Like most older people, I've been scanning the obituary columns for a number of years, just looking for familiar names and checking ages to see how they compared with my own. For a long time they were mostly older than me and that was comforting, but for several years I've noticed that I was older than most of the folks that were leaving this life.
That got me to wondering who was writing all those obituaries. Did the person's survivors have to sit down and put something together, with all the other things they had to do? Surely the funeral directors couldn't know all the facts well enough to write adequate stories. Regardless of how they are usually done, I decided I would write my own.
I was born in Houston, Texas October 6, 1925 at 'old' Methodist Hospital on Caroline at Anita Streets. I attended public schools: Woodrow Wilson Elementary, Sidney Lanier Junior High and Mirabeau B.Lamar High School, graduating in 1942, when I was 16 years old. Originally my last name was Cumings, like my father's, who was descended from William Cumings, one of Stephen F. Austin's 'old 300' families who established the original settlement in Austin's colony. After my parents divorced in 1940 my mother changed our name by adding the additional 'm'.
My older brother and only sibling, Glenn Malcolm Cummings, joined the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps in 1942, in response to public pleas for men to man the merchant ships being built to haul supplies to military operations all over the world in World War II. After graduating from high school at age 16, I held several entry level jobs and then attended Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas for the spring 1943 semester. I then followed my brother and reported to the U. S. Naval District Headquarters in New Orleans to be sworn into the Cadet Corps soon after my 18th birthday in October 1943. I was in uniform in time to have my picture taken as I marched down Canal Street in the Armistice Day parade on November 11th. After eight weeks of basic training, I boarded my first ship, the S.S. Delmar in New Orleans just after Christmas, 1943.
The Delmar was built in 1919 at Hog Island, Pennsylvania and was capable of only about 10 knots, top speed. After one voyage delivering general cargo to Cuba, through the Panama Canal and down the west coast of South America and back to New York, I was transferred in March 1944 to a nearly new ship, the S.S. Sea Nymph. She was a C-2 cargo ship, more than twice the size of the Delmar, and had a 15 man U.S. Navy gun crew with a five inch gun mounted on the fantail. She was capable of speeds over 16 knots. I made two round trips in convoy to England on the Sea Nymph, delivering war materials (ammunition, bombs, food stuffs, etc) for the American soldiers already gathering for the invasion of Europe. We passed the battleship, U.S.S. Texas, in the English Channel, just before D-Day, as we headed back to New York for another load.
I graduated from Kings Point, the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy on Long Island New York in June 1945 with a license to sail as Third Officer on any merchant ship in any ocean of the world and a commission as Ensign, U.S.N.R. I was only 19 years old. During that career I visited Cuba, Panama, Colombia, Chile, Peru, England, Australia, Greece, Canada and Poland, in that order. Before retiring I was promoted to Lt. (j.g.) in the United States Naval Reserve.
As a result of the good work of my brother and me, and a few million others, we won World War II and I resumed my education. I attended The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston to accumulate enough college additional hours to add to the war-shortened course at Kings Point to earn my BS in Transportation.
I met my life partner, Dorothy Hensley, in September of 1948, where she was the receptionist and switchboard operator. We became engaged on Valentine's Day, 1949 and we were married in First Methodist Church in Houston on June 25, 1949. We had two children, David Malcolm (1950) and Karen Ann (1952), who have both made us very proud. Our outstanding grandsons are Russell Bennett Lang and Carl Thompson Norwood.
My business career included stints in automotive battery manufacturing, service station and auto repair and moving and storage of household goods, all in Houston. It was while I operated the Gulf service station at Richmond and Montrose (both Gulf Oil Co. and that station are now long gone) that I became interested in politics. I began reading and attending meetings and joined the Houston Junior Chamber of Commerce, which met for lunch weekly at the Lamar Hotel and heard numerous political speakers. I was appointed chairman of the Jaycees Americanism. Committee and at our first meeting (in my backyard) we planned the first 'Old Fashion Fourth of July Celebration' to be held in Herman Park complete with a fireworks show, military band, patriotic speaker, free (small) American flags and a terrific traffic jam. We had hoped for 1500 people to show up; newspapers estimated that 35, 000 people actually attended. During this time I was elected Vice President of the Houston chapter of Texas Service Station Association, Secretary - Treasurer of the Houston Movers Association and President of Richwood Civic Club, where we lived from 1955 to 1973.
I was also elected President of the Houston Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1960, an honor that also led to my appointment as a director of the Houston Chamber of Commerce and as a Director of the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo. All that experience led me to run, in 1962, for the Democratic nomination for one of eight State Representative positions Harris County was entitled to fill in the Texas Legislature. I was unsuccessful, but ran again in 1964 and again in 1966, when I finally was elected. I closed my company (Cummings Moving and Storage) and went to work as a consultant to Central Forwarding Co. (largest moving and storage company in Texas at the time). You do remember that being a Texas State Representative is a part-time job, don't you?
I served two terms (four years; two regular sessions and two special sessions) representing (in a multi member district) the western third of Harris County in the Texas Legislature. I served on the House Appropriations Committee. Parks and Wildlife Committee, Transportation Committee, House Administration Committee (I got to assign all the House members their parking spaces), Penitentiary Committee, and Public Education Committee, where I was Vice Chairman. It was a life-changing experience.
In 1971 I was defeated for re-election, but continued my work as a moving and storage consultant and was also employed by State Representative Ray Lemmon, of Harris County, to assist him with his legislative duties. In January 1973, I was hired by the members of The Texas Mass Transportation Commission as Executive Director. The agency's stated purpose was to 'encourage; foster and assist in the development of public and mass transportation in this state'. After two and a half years. the Legislature, in it's wisdom, merged the Texas Mass Transportation Commission (about 7 employees) with the Texas Highway Department (about 15, 000 employees) to form the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation (later to add other agencies and become the Texas Department of Transportation, aka 'TexDot'). If you're interested, a then new magazine named Texas Monthly, did a story on how this all happened in their April 1974 issue, with George Bush (the elder) and Robert Strauss on the cover.
I stayed with the Highway Department (there are still a few of us that call it that) until I retired in 1993. I made many good friends and had many challenging and interesting assignments. In 1988, a federal judge had ruled that those who served in the Merchant Marines in World War II were entitled to 'veteran's benefits'. About all that meant to me at that late date was that it added three years to my total retirement base with the Texas Employees Retirement System and gave me a few extra retirement dollars every month.
My brief experience as a member of the Legislature led to my playing a role in passing 'open meetings' legislation (some agencies used to meet and later put out a news release about what happened; now most Texas 'governmental bodies' have to post advanced public notice of when and where they'll meet and what's on the agenda), 'open beaches' legislation (developers used to sign the public beach as private property and most law-abiding citizens would stay away), and pushing the extension of deer season into January (it used to end on December 31- every year); I took a petition, signed by 135 of the 150 members of the House) to the Parks and Wildlife Commission requesting that change because the Chairman of the House Committee wouldn't consider letting a bill pass out). I was House author of legislation to permit independent school districts to provide free kindergarten (there was no provision for state money); the Senate bill passed first, but I got it on the House calendar. I passed a bill for the Texas Nurses Association, making registration mandatory for registered nurses. I passed a bill for Texas Fish Farmers making their new industry legal; they had been unintentionally violating a number of laws about 'means of catching fish, daily possession limits, size limitations, etc of game fish.' The Texas Bar Association gave me a plaque for passing a bill they supported, but they would not support my attempts to create an optional penalty of 'life without parole' for certain crimes of violence committed with a firearm. It was my bill that created Texas first 'work release program' that let convicted non-violent criminals work 'outside' in certain situations for private employers to earn money to pay the costs of their imprisonment, generate income for their dependents and start a savings account for use when they were released. There were others, but you get the idea.
In connection with those bills and other activities, I'd like to name as honorary pall bearers, the following folks, most of whom, if they are still with us, are too old to be any other kind; The Honorable Ray Lemmon, The Honorable Gus Mutcher, The Honorable Lee Duggan, The Honorable Tommy-Don Uher, Felton West, Bo Byers, Dave McNeely; The Honorable Babe Schwartz, The Honorable Don Kennard, and The Honorable Jack Ogg. Also Johnny Clepper, Henry A. Thomason, Marcus Yancey, Ed Davis, Richard Christie, Al Luedecke and Gary Trietsch. All these men played a part in my life.
After retiring from the State of Texas, we moved from our 8th floor condominium on Town Lake in Austin to our ranch between Hamilton and Goldthwaite in the fall of 1994.We have raised, over the years, many head of fine Brangus cattle, a few horses and donkeys, a few sheep, goats and barn cats and one fine dog....Scout. She was the product of a summer romance between a golden retriever and a yellow lab and we enjoyed sharing our space with her. Scout is buried, with a concrete tombstone, near the front gate of our ranch. Our ranch was the third one in Texas to be certified as a Texas Quality Beef Producer by the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Assn, The Texas Beef Council, Texas Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the Texas Veterinarians Assn.
I'll be buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, on April 22, at 1:00 p.m.The cemetery is located about a mile east of the State Capitol at 909 Navasota Street, between 7th and 11th Streets. The Cemetery has, since 1851, served as the final resting place for numerous soldiers and founders of the Republic and State of Texas, elected officials, jurists and other prominent men and women 'who have made a significant contribution to Texas history, government and culture'. Stephen F. Austin, 12 Texas governors, numerous legislators, judges and other individuals are buried there, along with some 2200 Confederate soldiers and their wives. More information about the Cemetery (and biographical information on Dorothy and me) can be found on the web site at www.cemetery.state.tx.us
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to Russell Cummings Nursing Scholarship, McLennan Community College, 1400 College Drive, Waco, Texas 76705 or www.mclennan.edu (click on Foundation).
It has been a great life and I am pleased with the way it has all turned out, for me, my wife and my children too. I hope you all are as content as I am, as I start the next stage of this experience. Smile every chance you get!"
Further information is available through the Texas State Cemetery research department.