Learn more about Congressman Sumners’ life, career, and beliefs.

Congressman Hatton W. Sumners was a key figure in the unfolding drama of American democracy during the first half of the 20th century.

The Sumners Library is your opportunity to learn more about Congressman Sumners’ life, career, and beliefs.

For more information on the life and career of Hatton W. Sumners, you are invited to download the following documents.

A Day in July – Hatton W. Sumners and the Court Reorganization Plan of 1937 – The Best Lawyer in Congress (Chapter 1), the University of Texas at Arlington, August 1973. This chapter of a master’s thesis by Mary Catherine Monroe covers Congressman Sumners' early years and the development of his reputation as the best lawyer in Congress.

Hatton W. Sumners – His Life and Public Service, an extended biographical sketch by Judge Elmore Whitehurst, a close confidant of Congressman Sumners.

The Congressional Record, U.S. House of Representatives, July 13, 1937. This is a reprint of Congressman Sumners' speech on the floor of the House of Representatives in opposition to President Roosevelt's plan to "pack" the U.S. Supreme Court.

Capitol Leaders in Revolt, The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, May 17, 1938. By Ray Tucker, this story was one of a series on congressional leaders' opposition to many New Deal initiatives.

The Gentleman Who Does Not Yield, The Saturday Evening Post, May 10, 1941. By Raymond Moley and Celeste Jedel, this story reviews Congressman Sumners' career and the role of Congress in the political affairs of the nation.

The Congressional Record – Extension of Remarks, U.S. House of Representatives, March 11, 1946. This is a reprint of Congressman Sumners' announcement that he would not be seeking reelection and his reasons for that decision.

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Sumners Foundation

Biography of Congressman Hatton W. Sumners

Congressman Hatton W. Sumners was a key figure in the unfolding drama of American democracy during the first half of the 20th century, a period that encompassed two world wars and produced startling changes in many phases of this nation's life. The role of Congressman Sumners was not that of a spectator. He served as 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.

Born near Fayetteville, Lincoln County, Tennessee, on May 30, 1875, Sumners was raised as a farm boy in an era in which hard work and responsibilities came at an early age. As a young man, Sumners moved with his family to Texas. There, despite little formal education, he "read law" in the office of the Dallas City Attorney and was admitted to the State Bar of Texas. Throughout his life, he would continue to educate himself by wide reading, deep thought, and acute observation.

At the 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 nonconsecutive terms in spite of the determined opposition of organized gambling interests, apparent election frauds, and threats to his life.

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In 1912 he was elected congressman-at-large from Texas, one of two candidates elected from more than 20. Two years later, after the state was redistricted, he was elected representative from the Fifth District of Texas. Reelected every two years, he served continuously until his voluntary retirement in 1947.

Hatton W. Sumners was an extraordinary public servant. Respected and admired by those who knew him, he was universally recognized as a man of great moral courage, possessed of a sincere and deep spiritual conviction. As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (1931-1947), Sumners acquired a justly deserved reputation as the greatest constitutional lawyer in Congress. It was common knowledge that by 1937, he was in line for the next vacancy on the United States Supreme Court.

It was around this same time that cases challenging the Social Security Act and the Wagner Act were pending before the court. In 1935 the Schechter decision nullified the NRA codes, and in 1936 the court ruled against the AAA processing taxes. To ensure holdings validating the acts pending before the court and other New Deal legislation, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the reorganization of the Supreme Court, including the appointment of as many as six new justices.

Sumners immediately notified the president of his opposition to the proposal as a flagrant violation of the checks and balances and separation of powers principles of the United States Constitution. He declared that he would fight against the proposal to the finish, knowing that his public opposition to the measure ended his chances of becoming a member of the high court. His untiring efforts and leadership were successful, and the plan was defeated, although at a great cost to his personal career.

Following his retirement from Congress in 1947, Sumners continued to work for the public good. He set forth his lifelong belief in the maintenance of the balance of power and responsibilities between the federal government and the states in his book “The Private Citizen and His Democracy,” published in 1959. He believed in vigorous participation by individual citizens in their government, and he recognized that a strong and independent judiciary and legal system are necessary to the survival of the American system of constitutional government.

In 1949 he established the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation for the study and teaching of the science of self-government, and thereafter willed to the Foundation the property that produces the income that enables the Foundation to carry on its work.

He died in Dallas on April 19, 1962.

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Sumners Foundation

His Legacy - The Sumners Scholars

The Honorable Judge Fred Biery

It was 49 years ago that we had our Sumners interview, and five of us were fortunate enough to begin our first year as Scholars in August 1970. Living, dining, and studying together...

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It was 49 years ago that we had our Sumners interview, and five of us were fortunate enough to begin our first year as Scholars in August 1970. Living, dining, and studying together in Lawyers' Inn was a great experience that created friendships which are maintained to this day. It also provided courage and support to survive Professors Harding, Steele, Larsen, McKnight, Flitty, Dean Galvin, and others. Jean Jury had no law degree but effectively ran the place and was, in my perception at least, unofficial dorm mom. Three years of room, board, tuition, books, and a travel stipend totaled about $17,000. If not for the Sumners Foundation, I would not have been able to afford the opportunities that SMU and the relationships forged provided. Thank you, Congressman Sumners!

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The Honorable Judge Fred Biery

U.S. District Judge

Southern Methodist University, 1973

Laura Cross

Laura's involvement with the Foundation began as a member of the first class of Sumners Scholars graduating from Oklahoma City University School of Law in 1988...

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Laura's involvement with the Foundation began as a member of the first class of Sumners Scholars graduating from Oklahoma City University School of Law in 1988.  She was elected to the Foundation's Board of Trustees on January 1, 1997, and was a dedicated Trustee who contributed greatly to all aspects of the Foundation's activities and to the accomplishment of its purpose.

Laura's participation on the Foundation's vision committee was instrumental in moving the Foundation forward in accordance with its fundamental mission as established by Congressman Sumners.  Her work on the Foundation's strategic planning process has continued to impact Trustees and beneficiaries of the Foundation's broad ranging programs.

She was a highly respected attorney, a nurse, a leader deeply involved in healthcare and ethics issues, an author, and a volunteer in numerous nonprofit endeavors and causes.  She epitomized the spirit of Hatton W. Sumners.

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Laura Cross

Oklahoma City University School of Law, 1988

The Honorable Judge Lee Ann Dauphinot

I practiced law as a solo practitioner for ten years, practicing primarily criminal law. I am board certified in criminal trial and criminal appellate law. I am also a member of the State Bar College...

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I practiced law as a solo practitioner for ten years, practicing primarily criminal law. I am board certified in criminal trial and criminal appellate law. I am also a member of the State Bar College. I was elected to the trial bench and served for six years as judge of a criminal district court in Tarrant County. I was the first woman elected to a felony bench in Tarrant County. In 1994 Terrie Livingston and I ran for and were the first women elected to the Second Court of Appeals. I was required to take senior status January 1, 2016. The Hatton Sumners foundation made it possible for me to attend law school. I was married and had three children in private school. We could not afford my law school tuition and expenses without a scholarship or grant to cover the costs. At that time, 1975, women were not encouraged to attend law school, but the trustees who interviewed me apparently were willing to risk trusting me with one of the five scholarships, even though stereotypical view of women in law school was that they were dilettantes. The Hatton Sumners foundation encourages public service, and the foundation's commitment to public service was in concert with my own beliefs and the values honored by my family.

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The Honorable Judge Lee Ann Dauphinot

Southern Methodist University, 1978

Dara Derryberry

I serve as Senior Deputy Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma.  As such, I lead two Divisions of the Attorney General's Office:  the Public Protection Division...

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I serve as Senior Deputy Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma.  As such, I lead two Divisions of the Attorney General's Office:  the Public Protection Division, which consists of the Consumer Protection Unit, the Conservation Unit, the Utility Regulation Unit, the Tobacco Enforcement Unit, and the Office of Civil Rights Enforcement; as well as the Fraud Prevention and Prosecution Division, which consists of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Workers' Compensation and Insurance Fraud Unit.  I remain involved in the Oklahoma City community, where I have served as a Trustee over various years for Westminster School, Historic Preservation, Inc., Daily Living Centers, and the Harn Homestead.  My husband Ed Evans and I live in Oklahoma City, and I have two children, Tristan and Ava Prentice.

I was inspired to become a lawyer so that I could positively impact the lives of others.  The Hatton Sumners Scholarship created the opportunity to pursue this dream in my home state, and encouraged building my career around the value I place on public service and civic engagement.  The scholarship planted the seed that grew into a career that has woven between the public and private sectors, ultimately landing me in my current position, which affords me the chance to contribute in a meaningful way on a daily basis to the lives of my fellow Oklahomans.

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Dara Derryberry

Senior Deputy Attorney General
State of Oklahoma

Oklahoma City University School of Law, 1995

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Joe Foran

I currently serve as the founder, chairman, and CEO of Matador Resources Company, the 30th-largest independent exploration and production company in the United States...

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I currently serve as the founder, chairman, and CEO of Matador Resources Company, the 30th-largest independent exploration and production company in the United States. Matador is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MTDR, and its focus is the unconventional reservoirs of the Delaware Basin. Matador has been often recognized as one of the exploration leaders in the Northern Delaware Basin in New Mexico for the development of these reservoirs.

Attending SMU as a Sumners Scholar was one of the most profound activities that I have been a part of. The association and friendships formed with trustees and fellow Scholars are some of the most satisfying scholastic, personal, and professional relationships that I have ever experienced. I know I would not be where I am today without the doors opened for me as a result of my fortuitous selection as a Sumners Scholar back in spring 1974. Hardly a day goes by without thinking how grateful I am to the trustees who selected me and to the professors who educated me. I also have appreciated their encouragement to give back to other young people like myself seeking to find their place in the community.

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Joe Foran

Founder, Chairman, and CEO
Matador Resources Company

Southern Methodist University, 1977

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Lauren Gieseke

Since graduating in 2015, I've been teaching English as a foreign language in Eastern Europe. I spent two years in Bulgaria as a Fulbright English Teacher Assistant. 

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Since graduating in 2015, I've been teaching English as a foreign language in Eastern Europe. I spent two years in Bulgaria as a Fulbright English Teacher Assistant. Most recently, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia. I currently work as a freelance English teacher and spend most of my time in the Balkans.  The Sumners Scholars program was a key factor in where I am today. Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to study abroad in Serbia and in Kosovo. This program was a highlight of my undergraduate experience, and it wouldn't have been possible without the foundation. I was also fortunate to receive a scholarship for the TFAS program in Washington, DC. This was a second pivotal experience of my undergraduate years. The Sumners Foundation gave me the financial support to develop my academic and professional interests while at Southwestern, as well as opportunities to grow my network beyond the university.

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Lauren Gieseke

Volunteer
Peace Corps Macedonia

Southwestern University, 2015

Nathan Hecht

Having served on the bench since the 1980’s, I’ve been responsible for overseeing changes in rules governing procedure in civil cases and the operations of the courts...

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Having served on the bench since the 1980’s, I’ve been responsible for overseeing changes in rules governing procedure in civil cases and the operations of the courts and the profession. In the past decade, I’ve also shared the responsibility for improving access to justice by providing basic civil legal services to the very poor, and through reforming bail practices and the imposition and collection of fines and fees in Class C misdemeanors. My father was a farmer and could not afford the cost of a legal education, so the Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship made it possible for me to go to law school. It was inspiring to learn of Congressman Sumners’ many contributions to the judiciary.

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Nathan Hecht

Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Texas

Southern Methodist University, 1974

Hunter Jurgens

Hunter Jurgens graduated with honors from Southwestern University in Spring 2017 with a degree in international studies and political science. While in school, the Hatton Sumners...

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Hunter Jurgens graduated with honors from Southwestern University in Spring 2017 with a degree in international studies and political science. While in school, the Hatton Sumners scholarship provided unique opportunities to develop and nurture his interest in domestic politics, as well as meet professionals who were passionate about local politics. After graduating, Hunter moved to Austin, Texas, and accepted a research associate position with the Texas Senate Research Center. In the Senate, Hunter specializes in health care and human services policy. Due to his experiences in the legislature, as well as the formative opportunities provided by the Hatton Sumners program, Hunter intends on pursuing a joint Juris Doctor/Master of Public Policy degree.

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Hunter Jurgens

Research Associate
Texas Senate Research Center

Southwestern University, 2017

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Mark L. McDaniel

My career in local government management now spans over 32 years and seven Texas cities, with an emphasis in finance, organizational development, performance improvement, planning...

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My career in local government management now spans over 32 years and seven Texas cities, with an emphasis in finance, organizational development, performance improvement, planning, operations management, and economic development.

In May of 2017, I was appointed to serve as city manager for Kerrville, Texas. Prior to moving to the Texas Hill Country, I served as assistant city manager for the City of Dallas.  Previously, I served as city manager for the City of Tyler, assistant city manager for Corpus Christi, city manager for Woodway, assistant city manager for Lake Jackson and budget officer for Denton. 

Seeking to be a leader in my profession, I have served as President for the Texas City Management Association and Vice President for the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), representing the central United States. Currently, I serve on the board for the Alliance for Innovation.  

I came from very modest beginnings, growing up as one of six children.  My parents helped pay for my undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas, but I worked several jobs to make ends meet during that time.  Finally, I became the first to graduate from college on either side of my family.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science with a philosophy minor, my parents told me they were not sure what I was going to do with a degree like that – but I was on my own in terms of any further financial support.  At that point, I was encouraged to seek a graduate degree and was first introduced to local government.  This is when I learned for the first time what city management was all about.  So, I set out to find a way to pursue a master’s in public administration degree from the University of North Texas – not knowing how or if I would be able to find a way to pay for it. 

The major reason why I have had the opportunity to make a positive impact on several communities and the lives of many Texas residents is because of the generosity of the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation – which paid for most of my graduate education to launch my career.  In my life, the Foundation’s support has been the game changer.  The American Dream is still alive and well, you just need to work hard, be strong in your faith, and reach for the stars.  Indeed, I am evidence that anything is possible. 

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Mark L. McDaniel

City Manager
Kerrville, Texas

University of North Texas

Charles L. Moore

Receiving the Sumners Scholarship at SMU Law for the Class of 1975 has been a major lifetime blessing for me. During law school, the scholarship enabled me to focus on my studies...

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Receiving the Sumners Scholarship at SMU Law for the Class of 1975 has been a major lifetime blessing for me. During law school, the scholarship enabled me to focus on my studies, to receive a Resolution of the Faculty for the highest-grade average ever attained in the history of the law school, and to be named the Phi Delta Phi International Winner, Graduate of the Year. In the area of professional engagement, the education enabled me to practice as a corporate attorney for 41 years on significant corporate transactions, M&A matters and financings, and to be named the 2005 New Mexico Business Lawyer of the Year. The scholarship inspired me to be involved in a number of civic and church activities, the most important of which were 20 years as a trustee on the Sumners Foundation board and currently as the chancellor (legal counsel for the bishop) of the New Mexico Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

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Charles L. Moore

Chancellor
New Mexico Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

Southern Methodist University, 1975

Audrey Rose

The Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship provided me with amazing opportunities while studying at Austin College. As a Sumners Scholar, I gained valuable insight into the American political...

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The Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship provided me with amazing opportunities while studying at Austin College. As a Sumners Scholar, I gained valuable insight into the American political process and the pillars of public service. The Sumners Foundation and those I met through the various programs and conferences inspired me to follow a career where I can positively impact the lives of others. Armed with the lessons and messages I learned as a Sumners Scholar, I am excited to begin my adventure as a cultural ambassador and Fulbright Scholar to Spain. There, I hope to share everything I learned about the importance of civic engagement.

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Audrey Rose

Fulbright Scholar to Spain

Austin College, 2018

Hiram Sasser

Hiram is a 2002 graduate of Oklahoma City University. He currently serves as the general counsel for First Liberty Institute, the largest organization in America dedicated to defending the...

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Hiram is a 2002 graduate of Oklahoma City University. He currently serves as the general counsel for First Liberty Institute, the largest organization in America dedicated to defending the religious liberty of all Americans. Some of his clients include a Native American sweat lodge, the Falun Gong, Catholic schools, synagogues, the National Association of Evangelicals, and clients of just about every Protestant denomination. He regularly comments on religious liberty issues in the media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, and CBS. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at Oklahoma City University School of Law and the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. “The Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship was much more than a financial aid package; it was like joining a family,” said Hiram Sasser. “The scholarship allowed me to graduate without any debt and focus on a career in public service. I have endeavored to carry on the Scholar ‘family tradition’ of giving back to our scholarship community with my time and effort to pass along the blessing of the program to a new generation.”

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Hiram Sasser

General Counsel
First Liberty Institute

Oklahoma City University, 2002

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