Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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January 23, 2008

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Coach, athlete, Jesse Cummings dies at 90

Former athlete, World War II veteran and coach Jesse Cummings died Wednesday at the age of 90, leaving a legacy of physical and moral guidance to at least two generations of local children.

In 1958, Cummings coached the baseball team that went all the way to state, losing in the final championship game to San Antonio. It was the closest the Tigers ever got to that particular title.

Jimmy Dawson was a junior on that team, and he remembers it as a wet and rainy spring that year.

“We had a pavilion we could throw balls and make bunts, but there was water standing in the outfield. (Cummings) put a base out in the biggest pool of water he could find and said ‘we’re going to practice sliding.’ We had a good time doing it. We thought it was fun.”

Former players, even other coaches who knew Cummings, described him as a good man who emphasized the basics, both in sports and life.

Born in Burkesville, Kentucky, Cummings’ family moved to Texas during the Depression, to help work an uncle’s farm in Fannin County. He played football, baseball and ran track at Trenton High School, then went to Fort Worth to attend business school.

When World War II broke out, the young Cummings joined the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the Air Force. He spent the next four years in Europe, both as a soldier and as an athlete. His arsenal of stories included having landed on Normandy during the D-Day offensive, and competing in hurdles and track in Nuremberg and Wimbledon.

After the war, he had a shot at joining the Fort Worth Cats, a minor-league baseball team that fed into the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“He missed trying out because he got food poisoning,” explained Cummings’ daughter, Lynn Kidwell. “So, he went to East Texas to go to school.”

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