• U.S.

THE CABINET: Exit Mr. Cummings

4 minute read

The 54th Attorney General of the U. S. last week held his “farewell” press conference. He reviewed his labors, which began with an opinion on the President’s power to call a bank holiday, written personally, in penciled long hand, in the Library of Congress while his chief’s first inaugural was in progress March 4, 1933. He recalled the hot legal battles of AAA and NRA; the building of the FBI from a sleuthing unit to an armed force with powers of arrest and a sharp-toothed Federal crime code behind it; the improvement of U. S. prisons, notably the creation of Alcatraz. With special pride he pointed to the new rules for civil procedure in Federal courts (TIME, Sept. 26), which the American Bar Association had for 25 years tried in vain to obtain. Of all his monuments, these rules, he said, were his favorite.

Though he will not actually leave office until after Congress meets in January, Homer Stille Cummings then thanked the press for being good to him, shook hands all round with tears in his eyes.

When Montana’s grim-jawed old Senator Tom Walsh, newly wed, died just before the New Deal was inaugurated, Homer Cummings of Stamford, Conn, was slated to be Governor General of the Philippines. He went into the Cabinet, vice Walsh, on 48 hours’ notice. It was understood he would serve only a two-year hitch, but his willingness to find legal paths to Franklin Roosevelt’s goals made the latter persuade him to stay on. However, the path he proposed to enable the New Deal to make over the Supreme Court won him no kudos when it failed.

One reason Mr. Cummings stayed in Washington so long was the good time lively, quick-tongued Mrs. Cummings had as a Cabinet wife, a time which culminated in her court presentation at Buckingham Palace in a bright red dress.* Washington will miss their parties. The main reason he wanted to get back to his private practice was to make some more money before he got too old.† Last summer, having passed 68, he swore that this year would be his last in harness but the final decision was not reached quite as planned.

Fortnight ago Mr. Cummings went to Pinehurst, N. C. for his annual golfing party (35 male guests). Vexed to find him absent, the President, who wanted to see him about Federal judgeship appointments,** asked him to return to Washington within four days. Mr. Cummings returned at once and the President announced his resignation, accompanied by public exchanges of mutual cordiality.

The President was not ready to tell who the next Attorney General would be. Observers guessed it would be Solicitor General Robert Houghwout Jackson. They also guessed that before Thanksgiving’s turkey hash was all consumed there would be more changes in the Cabinet.

*Before she sailed for London, President Roosevelt asked Mrs. Cummings to give him a private showing of herself in court gear, complete with three white plumes. She not only did that but sent him a jar of his favorite mushroom soup, for which he radioed her his thanks in midocean.

† Last week Mr. Cummings sold to the Post Office Department for $50,000 a city lot in Stamford, part of extensive realty holdings accumulated by him in the 19203.

**Two appointments were announced soon after: Illinois’ AttorneyGeneral Otto Kerner to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; U. S. District Attorney Michael Igoe of Chicago to the U. S. District Court of Northern Illinois. Into the vacancy left by Mr. Igoe stepped Illinois’ NYA Director William J. Campbell, who couldn’t wangle the district judgeship despite his friendship with Franklin Roosevelt’s good friend George William Cardinal Mundelein.

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