Tuesday, November 27, 2001

ROY CUMMINGS / 1913-2001

This undated photograph shows former Honolulu
Star-Bulletin staffer Roy Cummings, "father of the
Hawaii Newspaper Guild," at work on the newspaper's
copy desk. Years earlier, he had worked at the Honolulu
Advertiser, which fired him in 1938 for his union activity.

Newspaper guild’s
founder dies

The lifelong journalist was a
"guiding light" in the difficult
creation of the Hawaii union

More obituaries

By Pat Gee

Roy Cummings, once honored as the "father of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild," died Saturday. He was 88.

"Every newspaper person today owes him a debt of gratitude" for being the "guiding force in the very beginning" of the guild, says Roy Kruse, who was among the earliest union organizers.

Cummings was from St. Louis, but "Hawaii was his home," Kruse said. "He paved the way for all the good things we did later. He was an amazing person. He was a born leader. When he talked, everybody listened."

His wife, Susan, said Cummings was driven to unionize the newspaper industry because "he worked 10 years without a vacation and (sometimes) seven days a week" for a paltry sum.

The business manager of the Star-Bulletin in the late 1950s "tried to run Roy down with his car. They hated his guts. He put his job and life on the line," she said.

Cummings died from complications resulting from a second stroke at his Lanikai home, she said.

The University of Missouri graduate came here in 1936 and spent about 25 years of his life organizing Hawaii's first newspaper union.

According to the guild biography of Cummings, he worked for the Honolulu Advertiser until 1938, when he was fired for his union activity. In 1943 he began working for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as a war correspondent and later as a copy editor. He started the first guild with a handful of members in 1937, but the organization died following a harassment program conducted by both newspapers, the biography said.

In 1949, Cummings reorganized the guild and turned his home into its headquarters, holding meetings well into the night.

In 1956 his recruiting drive more than doubled guild membership to more than 200. In 1957 he received the guild's unanimous endorsement for its Wilbur E. Bade Memorial Award, honoring him as the "father of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild."

Cummings and his wife returned to St. Louis in the early 1960s to raise a family, living there for 36 years, Susan Cummings said.

He worked for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and was active in the union there.

They returned to Hawaii in 1999.

Susan Cummings said she was secretary for Star-Bulletin Managing Editor Bill Ewing in 1957 when she and her future husband started dating. She was subsequently fired when she refused to stop seeing Cummings.

Management "could do anything in those days," she said.

One of Cummings' fellow Star-Bulletin staffers 51 years ago, Lyle Nelson, said, "He was our guiding light, a real strong, guiding influence."

Shurei Hirozawa, also on the staff in the '50s, said Cummings was a "very helpful, wonderful guy who took me in hand and taught me the workings of the city room. He knew his business. He taught me things I had not learned at journalism school."

Tommy Lum, also formerly with the Star-Bulletin, said Cummings was "a very spunky guy. He wouldn't let management get away with anything. He was a very honest guy, very strong. The union wouldn't have gotten where it is today if it weren't for him."

Cummings is also survived by sons Toby Teo and Shawn, daughters Melani Whitehead and Melissa Kornis, brother Rauj W. Cummings, three grandchildren and one nephew.

Private memorial services are being held today. Arrangements are being handled by Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary.

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