There is a lot I remember about growing up in McDuffie County. Like most people, many of my attitudes about life and what is expected of me were shaped during my childhood. The excellence that I demanded of myself as a coach at Thomson High School for 23 years was greatly influenced by the superb performance of our football Bulldogs from 1965-70 when our record was 62-4. I grew up thinking that Thomson should never lose and I still feel that way. The coaches and players were my heroes. One unsung hero of that period was a man named Charlie Cummings.
Charlie was one of three African-Americans who played football for Thomson High in the late 60s before the schools were fully integrated in 1970. His parents, who had only seventh-grade educations, opted to send Charlie to Thomson High in 1967 because they felt it offered him a better opportunity. It couldn’t have been easy for him, but Charlie remembers the experience as being largely positive. He was one of four African-Americans who graduated from Thomson High in the spring of 1970.
Cummings knew that becoming a member of the football team wouldn’t be easy, and even his peers from R.L. Norris doubted him. He knew that he would have to work hard to prove himself. Although he spent his 1967 sophomore year on the B-Team, he practiced that summer with the varsity. Weighing only 148 pounds and playing defensive end, he knew he would have to exhibit toughness and that test came early. He’s proud that he survived his first tackling drill when he drew All-State End Glenn Reese, who outweighed him by over 40 pounds, as a partner and felt like he gave as good as he got. Cummings knew he had to stand up, be tough and earn the respect of his coaches and teammates. He must have accomplished his goal. Teammate Cooper Gunby, a FB, often had to block Cummings in practice. Gunby recalls that even though he outweighed Charlie by at least 80 pounds, he never sidestepped him and would absolutely punish you with his forearm.
Charlie has nothing but positive things to say about his experience. He especially cited Coach Ed McIntyre, his B-team coach for treating him fairly and encouraging him every step of the way. Joe Compton, who Cummings describes as a visionary, always treated him with respect as he went from a sub to a star. Cummings said that playing football made it easier for him to receive acceptance in the classroom.
On the field, Charlie was closest to teammates David Pearson and Ricky Walden as he became a key factor on Thomson’s 22-1 record in his two years of varsity play at end. He was a starter on defense on the 1968 state title team and started both ways his senior year when his team experienced the shock of losing for the first time in the South Georgia Championship game against Fitzgerald. That 14-0 loss ended a 36 game winning streak. Furthermore, the players on that team hadn’t lost in their entire high school career as they were part of a 53-game winning streak on the B-Team.
Charlie graduated from Albany State University in 1975 with a business administration degree. He spent 20 years in the corporate world, first at J.M. Huber and then in insurance with Primerica, and has been in education since 1994. He is retiring at the end of this school year.
He has served at Sand Hills Psychoeducational Center as a teaching assistant and as in-school suspension instructor at Thomson Middle School.
When you talk to Charlie Cummings, you have to be impressed with his pride and modesty. He has used what could have been difficult experiences to make himself a better man.
What a great Old Dog!