James Cornelius “Connie” Summers ’50 celebrates 102nd birthday Jan. 4

Jan 3, 2023

Congratulations to Connie Summers, Class of 1950, who celebrates his 102nd birthday on Jan. 4, 2023.

A Nashville native who graduated from Father Ryan High School, Summers attended three other colleges before transferring to Vanderbilt University, where he earned both his undergraduate and law degrees. He passed the Tennessee Bar examination in 1949 before his graduation from law school in 1950. As a young lawyer, Summers worked as an assistant city attorney for the City of Nashville and an assistant district attorney for Davidson County.

Summers practiced law in Nashville for over 50 years. Over the course of his distinguished career, he served as a hearing examiner for the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility, president of the Young Lawyers Association of Nashville, and on the board of the Nashville Bar Association.

Before earning his degrees, Summers served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as an aviation cadet, piloting a PBM twin-engine sea plane. He served in Saipan, participated in the invasion of Okinawa, and hauled bombs and torpedoes on many missions in the Pacific Theater. He also served in the Korean Conflict as a naval aviator. After his service, he remained an avid pilot, securing a commercial pilot’s license. He was an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve until he retired from service in 1969 with the rank of Commander.

A dedicated outdoorsman, Summers enjoyed hiking and boating. He joined with friends to form the White-Water Canoe Club, which became the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association. Another long-time recreational pursuit was painting in oils, and he participated in a weekly painting group with other Nashville artists until his failing eyesight forced him to stop.

Summers gave generously of his time and energy to civic work, especially in the field of mental health. He served as president of the Nashville Mental Health Association and on the boards of the Tennessee Mental Health Association, the Nashville Mental Health Center, the Dede Wallace Mental Health Center and Hickory Hall Day School for Emotionally Disturbed Children. He was the executive director of a Chamber of Commerce committee promoting consolidation of the City of Nashville with Davidson County before their 1963 merger into the Metropolitan Nashville government. Summers chaired the Governors’ Advisory Committee for Establishment of Community Mental Health Centers and traveled throughout Tennessee, from Memphis to Bristol, to help establish publicly available mental health services for state residents. He co-founded the former Family Clinic of Nashville and served on the board of trustees of Montgomery Bell Academy.

Summers was also active on the boards of Catholic Charities, St. Patricks’ Shelter and St. Mary’s Child Development Center. He was a member of the Cathedral of the Incarnation and a Fourth-Degree member of the Knights of Columbus.

Summers was born on Jan. 4, 1921, in Memphis, Tennessee. He has been married to his current wife, Jean, for 16 years, and has four children from his first marriage to the late Janet Connelly Summers; 10 stepchildren, including the children of his second wife, the late Sara Shea Davis; three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.