Selected Papers of Homer Cummings, Attorney General of the United States, 1933-1939

By Carl Brent Swisher; Homer S. Cummings | Go to book overview

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Homer Stillé Cummings was born April 30, 1870, the son of a distinguished inventor, manufacturer, and writer on technical subjects. He was educated at the Heathcote School in Buffalo and at Yale College and Law School, and in 1893 was admitted to the bar of Connecticut, where he maintained his home during his career as a practicing lawyer and a leader of the Democratic Party.1 He participated in the civic life of his community and state--as mayor of Stamford at the age of 30, twice re-elected and President of the Mayors' Association of Connecticut, President of the Stamford Board of Trade, and member of the State Council of Defense for the mobilization of industry in one of the nation's leading industrial states during the World War. In 1909 he organized the firm of Cummings and Lockwood which engaged in a growing and diversified practice.

At the appointment of the local courts, he served for a decade as state's attorney. In his capacity as a prosecutor, he tempered professional zeal with humanity and a search for truth which found its most widely-known example in the story of State v. Harold Israel.2 In Fairfield County, only a few miles from the borders of New York and not a great distance from Rhode Island

____________________
1
For biographical and personal material, see: Kelly, "Homer Cummings, A Biographical Sketch", Journal of the New Haven Bar Association, January 1934, p. 13; Creel, "The Tall Man", Collier's Magazine, January 4, 1936; Soderholm, "Early Days in Buffalo", the Buffalo Evening News, October 22, 1938.
2
Wherein, despite a confession, ostensible evidence, and local feeling, the prosecutor became convinced of the innocence of a bewildered defendant accused of murder (see The State v. Harold Israel, 1924, 15 J. Crim. L. 406, 415; the same in pamphlet form, 1932, with a foreword by William M. Maltbie; and an edition of 1936 with an introduction by Brien McMahon). It has been widely reproduced or commented upon in such diverse publications as Borchard Convicting the Innocent ( 1932, p. xviii); the report of the (Wickersham) National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement ( 1931, pp. 184-185); The Human Side of the People's Case (staff magazine of the New York County district attorney's office, May, 1937, pp. 4-5); and the Shanghai Police Gazette ( September, 1937, p. 4). In June, 1938, Mr. Cummings undertook to discover the subsequent conduct of Harold Israel. In July the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported him as an apparently respected citizen of Pennsylvania, married, with two children, living in a neat residence in a respectable neighborhood, with good credit, employed for the last twelve years as a competent miner of good character, and a member of the Methodist Church.

-xi-

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