JUDGE C. C. CUMMINGS, veteran soldier, judge and historian, came to Fort Worth in January, 1873, when the village on the Trinity bluff was just beginning its phenomenal expansion which in the subsequent thirty years has pushed in two or three miles to the south and east and west and has given it the place of metropolis of Northwest Texas.
First of all, Judge Cummings is a southern soldier and gentleman. He enlisted in April, 1861, in the Seventeenth Mississippi Regiment, and was in all the battles of his command till shot out of Gettysburg. He went through the first law class after the war at Lebanon, Tenn., and began to practice in Memphis, then in Mississippi, his native state, and having practiced in Fort Worth since 1873, is now the city’s oldest practitioner in point of active connection with the bar. He was the first county judge under the present constitution, serving two terms, from 1876 to 1880. He administered as the first superintendent of the schools of both city and county, by virtue of his office as judge, this being before the city assumed jurisdiction.
He met opposition to the public school system, then in its infancy in Texas, for the reason that a heavy tax had been collected under preceding Republican administrations, while the state was under military rule, but the fund rarely reached its destination. This office of county judge was then a kind of omnium gatherum; besides superintending the education of more than three thousand children on the city and county rolls he had to dispense the civil and criminal laws under his jurisdiction, as well as being ex-officio head of the Commissioners’ Court, governing the finances and roads and bridges of the county. To add to his difficulties, the court house was burned about the time of his induction into office, and not a road was left of record; all had to be re-established by the appointment of a commission by this court. County scrip was taken at its lowest ebb, selling on the market at forty cents on the dollar. In the four years of his administration the finances of the county were brought up to par, besides the expenditure of $100,000 on a court house and jail and bridges over the county where none had existed before. The law required the county judge to be at his office every day to meet these multiplied duties, and at the same time demanded that this officer should visit school communities and lecture them on the new school law just then put in vogue by the legislature. To overcome the physical problem involved by this demand, of being in two places at the same time, devoted Sundays lecturing school committees as to their duties and in settling the many new problems suggested by the trustees, whose appointment was committed to him by the law. There being no schoolhouses, wherever a neighborhood had a church house he secured room in that to lecture on these sabbatical duties, and considered it God’s service that the state should embrace the new system of public schools; and when no room could be had for this purpose he lectured under the shade of the trees. No pay was allowed for this extra service. During the four years he issued thousands of dollars in school money to teachers, without bond, none being required of the superintendent under the law as it then was. And while the laws were all new, under a new constitution, he served four years with the remarkable record never being reversed, though hundreds of civil and criminal cases were appealed from his decision.
Judge Cummings is widely known as a write on current issues of the day, and it is especially noteworthy that for several terms he has been historian of the Texas State Division of the Confederate Veterans.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, p. 206.