JOHN CUMMINGS John Michael Cummings (Johnny), age 66, died unexpectedly at his Las Vegas, Nevada, home April 12, 2020, Easter Sunday. Born to Mildred and Milford Cummings on December 24, 1953, Johnny grew up in North Little Rock, Ark., was a "delivery boy" for the Arkansas Democrat newspaper, and graduated from the city's Ole Main High School before earning both a baccalaureate and a master's degree at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. He grew into a handsome, eccentric, charismatic, and quite brilliant southern gentleman with his own sense of fashion, and was filled with love, sympathy, compassion, and charity. He was also a talented actor, writer, speaker, and forceful debater who could command a stage or an auditorium and take his audience wherever he so desired. As many of Johnny's classmates dating all the way back to the first grade have recalled, Johnny had a high tolerance for everything and everybodyexcept bullies. And although he was the least violent person one would ever meet, he relished "taking on" a bully, even physically if necessary, without ever once backing down. After launching his professional career as an English teacher at Parkview High School in Little Rock, Johnny left the classroom to work for teacher unions in Little Rock and Memphis before moving to Las Vegas where he was the Executive Director of the Nevada State Education Association, aka the "Teachers Union" for several years. During his tenure, the union enhanced its power by increasing campaign contributions to politicians, bridging the gap between Republicans and Democrats, becoming the first group to effectively utilize the referendum process, and by successfully quarterbacking a deal with Nevada's gaming interests and other Las Vegas business entities ensuring that the governor would propose, and the legislature would pass, a tax package that greatly increased funding for education and teacher salaries. After leaving the union in 1994, Johnny returned to his first-love of teaching at the College of Southern Nevada where he consistently ranked as a student favorite who enlightened hundreds if not thousands of them not only with his wide grasp of all things literary, but also with his unspoken mantra that it's "ok" not to follow the pack, to think for yourself, to question authority, and to find what you love to do and then do it. At the time of his death, Johnny was actively engaged as a political consultant and strategist whose most recent "political joy" was the highly valuable role he played in bringing about the 2019 election of Steve Sisolak, a businessman and Democrat who is now serving as the 30th Governor of Nevada. Left to cherish Johnny's legacy are his wife Gretchen Smolka Cummings, his daughters Caitlin Cummings Spengler (Walter); Hayley J. Cummings; and Brooke C. Cummings (Ryan); his mother, Mildred Cummings of North Little Rock; his sisters, Judy Cummings Teeter (Jim) and Jennifer Cummings Harrison (John); nephew and nieces Brian Teeter, Rebecca Teeter Long, and Jill Harrison Hernandez; and Joyce Shovlin Cummings, his former wife, beloved friend, and mother of Caitlin and Hayley. A service in memory of Johnny will be held in Las Vegas at a time yet to be determined.
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Published in Las Vegas Review-Journal on May 17, 2020.