Congressman Hatton W. Sumners was a decision-maker and as a policy formulator throughout his 34 years of congressional service, which spanned the first administration of President Woodrow Wilson to the end of World War II. Growing up as a hard-working farm boy, Sumners had little formal education; however, determined to he "read law" in the office of the Dallas City Attorney, and gained admission to the State Bar of Texas. Extensive reading, deep thought and acute observation built a pattern of learning to which he would adhere the rest of his life.
At the young age of 24, Sumners was elected prosecuting attorney of Dallas County, at a time when, as he said, "Dallas was just emerging from the wild west days." In this position, he served two non-consecutive terms, determinedly fighting against defiant organized gambling groups and apparent election frauds despite violent threats to his life.
In 1912 Texas voted for Sumners to serve as Congressman-at-Large from Texas. Two years later, after state redistriction, he was elected to represent the Fifth District of Texas in Congress. Reelected every two years, Sumners served his home state and country continuously until his voluntary retirement in 1947.
In the years following his retirement from Congress, Sumners continued to labor for the public’s wellbeing. His book, The Private Citizen and His Democracy, published in 1959 set forth his lifelong belief in the maintenance of the balance of power and responsibilities between the federal government and individual states. Sumners advocated for vigorous participation in the government by individual citizens in this volume, and also recognized the vitality of a strong and independent judiciary and legal system in the American system of constitutional government.
Two years after his 1947 retirement from Congress, Sumners established the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation for the Study and Teaching of the Science of Self-Government. Shortly thereafter, his will bequeathed property to the foundation which today generates the income that enables the Foundation to carry on its work.
Congressman Sumners died in Dallas, Texas, on April 19, 1962.
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