Baylor Law School to Honor Judge Sam Cummings as 2007 Lawyer of the Year

Oct. 2, 2007
News Photo 4273The Honorable Sam R. Cummings, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas.

by Julie Carlson, Baylor Law School, (254) 710-6681

The Honorable Sam R. Cummings, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, has been selected as Baylor Lawyer of the Year for 2007. Cummings will be honored at a luncheon on Nov. 7 in Lubbock.

"Judge Cummings has been a longstanding formidable presence on the federal bench, known for his keen insight, work ethic and unfailing respect for all who appear before him in his courtroom," said Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben. "His intellect, commitment to serve others, and his professional temperament and consistent humbleness in a position of great power and esteem speak volumes about the character of this gentleman whom we so very appropriately honor as the 2007 Baylor Lawyer of the Year."

Cummings, who was appointed to the bench in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan, received his bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University and graduated cum laude from Baylor Law School in 1970. While at Baylor, he received the American Jurisprudence Award and the Judge Hunter D. Barrow Memorial Scholarship Award.

Following law school, Judge Cummings entered private practice with the firm of Culton, Morgan, Britain & White in Amarillo and was made a partner after only four years of practice. He remained with the firm until his appointment to the federal judiciary.

As U.S. District Judge, Cummings presides over the Lubbock, Abilene and San Angelo divisions of the Northern District of Texas, which is the single largest land area district over which a single judge presides.

"Sam Cummings is truly one of West Texas' best legal and judicial minds ever," said Doug Welch, a former briefing attorney for Cummings and now assistant general counsel at Baylor. "I observed not only his sharp legal mind and quick grasp of the most complex issues, but the true meaning of judicial temperament. I was always impressed by the manner in which he treated the criminal defendants and learned from him that no matter what a person had done, the right and Christian thing to do was to respect each person's humanity and dignity."

Current Texas Tech University regent and former Lubbock Mayor Windy Sitton also holds Cummings in high esteem.

"I have witnessed Judge Cummings presiding over some very contentious litigation. He was remarkable with how he maintained his composure, his professionalism and his integrity throughout these very difficult cases. I have never known a man with a more admirable set of values, character above reproach and one with such an impeccable reputation," she wrote in her letter to nominate Cummings as Lawyer of the Year.

Cummings is a former member of the International Association of Defense Counsel and a member of the American Bar Association. He is a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and former chairman of the District 13 Grievance Committee for the State Bar of Texas.

As a U.S. District Judge, Cummings has served as a member of the Local Rules Committee and the Court Operations Committee. He also served as chairman of the Jury Utilization Committee for the Court. He has been a member of the faculty at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, S.C. In January 2008, Cummings will become a member of the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council.

An active community volunteer, he also served as vice president of the South Amarillo Kiwanis Club and as a member of the board of trustees for the Presbyterian Children's Home and Howard Payne University. An Eagle Scout, Cummings remains active in the Boy Scouts of America, serving as a member of the Board of the South Plains Council and as committee chairman of Troop 86. Additionally, he and his wife, Sally, have served on the Baylor Development Council, and he is former president of the West Texas chapter of the Baylor Parents' League.

For many years, Cummings was a deacon at First Baptist Church, Amarillo. He currently is a member of First Baptist Church of Lubbock.

The Cummings have two children - Dr. David Cummings of Lubbock and Julie Cummings Whitmarsh of Austin - and one grandchild, Caroline Elizabeth Whitmarsh. Both children also received degrees from Baylor.

The Lawyer of the Year award is given annually to an outstanding alumnus who has brought honor and distinction to Baylor Law School and the legal profession. Past recipients include Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, former Texas Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, former F.B.I. director William Sessions and former U.S. Rep. Jack Hightower, among others. The award has been presented by Baylor Law School since 1963.

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