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Obituary: Frank W. Summers – Football & Track & Field 1933-36, Veteran – January 26, 1993

Frank W. Summers (born 1914, B.A. 1938 and died 1993)
Article by Frank W. Summers III (B.A. 1989)

Southwestern Louisiana Institute Athlete:
Football and Track & Field
Associate Justice, Supreme Court of Louisiana, December 12, 1960, to December 31, 1978
Chief Justice, January 1, 1979, to February 29, 1980
Eighteenth Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court

Born September 5, 1914, in Abbeville, Louisiana to Clay R. Summers and Esther Leblanc Summers of Abbeville, Louisiana. He was a direct descendant of the Leblanc family who sold Pere Megret the land upon which Abbeville was founded and was tied to the French and Acadian relations of the family including being the real cousin of Dudley Leblanc fellow SLI alumnus and author of The Acadian Miracle and a leader in the Acadian community. Community and family were important to him all his life cattleman and he was involved in many things which I will not mention here. Summers was educated in Abbeville public schools and was a student athlete Wildcat in football and track at Abbeville High School but mostly excelled at football. He continued his athletic commitments at the next level which was at the institution hosting this page, now the University of Louisiana. In addition to playing sports he earned B.A. at Southwestern Louisiana Institute in 1936. He remained attached to the University and was honored with the Outstanding Alumni award and supported several descendants there. He and I had matching chargers as I received the similar trophy as Outstanding Graduate in May of 1989. He was very pleased by that tradition.
Leaving SLI he continued his education and received an LL.B. from Tulane Law School in 1938. He then married his sometime sweetheart and only wife public school teacher, fellow Abbeville native. Beverly Marie Miller was the daughter of Dr. Preston Joseph Miller and Laura Broussard and was a direct descendant on her mother’s side of Acadiana’s cultural Founder Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil. Summers wed Beverly Miller in 1940 and they had six children the oldest being this writer’s father Frank Wynerth Summers II. He was the only child born when the young couple who had just started a home life and established a law practice in Abbeville were interrupted by World War II. Summers. In December 1941 he entered the Navy. He served first as a Naval Intelligence officer, then commanded an anti-U-boat converted yacht in the Gulf of Mexico before shipping out to the Pacific. In the Pacific Theater he commanded an amphibious vessel of the type called LST or Landing Ship Tank in the action leading up to and following the taking of Okinawa and the surrender of Japan and other actions in the grand campaign in the Pacific. This writer does not have his records from the Pacific Fleet. He felt that he played a role typical of most men in his type of post and saw real combat but not at the center of great battles often arriving before or after the heavy fighting. He took pictures of the damage caused by the atomic bombs on his own time but had to surrender them to the Navy so they do not exist in my files. Discharged with the rank of lieutenant commander November 1945 he resumed his law practice until appointment as judge of the Fifteenth Judicial District for Acadia, Lafayette, and Vermilion parishes. He served in that office from 1952 to 1954. In all those years he worked on and managed his and his wife’s farm and cattle lands as he did later in life as well. He returned to private legal practice until election to Supreme Court in October 1960 serving as Associate Justice during almost explosive expansion of caseloads at all levels of the judiciary working very long hours until he became chief justice January 1, 1979.He used his single State of the Judiciary speech before the Legislature to urge restructuring judicial system to transfer jurisdiction for criminal appeals from Supreme Court to Courts of Appeal. His health was suffering from years of limited sleep and exercise and he retired after fourteen months as chief on February 29, 1980, to devote more energy to family, to recover his health and to devote energy to the family’s large farm and cattle ranch in Vermilion Parish. He struggled with Cancer for many years but remained somewhat active in professional, civic, and veterans’ organizations. He died January 26, 1993 when this writer was completing a Master of Arts in History at LSU and I was with him a few days before he died and served as a pallbearer at his funeral.
This sketch relies in part on the work of Janice Shull, "Frank Summers" In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, Edited by David Johnson, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities 2010. Article Published October 13, 2014.
Submitted by grandson, Frank W. "Beau" Summers, Nov. 11, 2014.