Buhl Cummings, a Pennsylvania farmer and World War II veteran who founded Christian school of Athens more than 50 years ago, died Wednesday evening at his home in Athens following a brief illness.
Cummings, who was surrounded by his family when he died, was 93 years old. He was predeceased by his wife Lois, who died in August 2020.
He is remembered as a community leader, visionary, missionary, educator and coach who had a profound influence on many families in and around the Athens region.
âHe was probably the most remarkable person I have ever known,â said Steve Cummings, who took over from his father as principal of the school at Athens Christian. âHe was so good at so many different things, but he was also one of the most humble and kind people I have ever known. Her whole life has been about serving and uplifting others, which is in contrast to so much that we see in our society now. ”
âLois and Buhl Cummings have been great contributors via Athens Christian to so many children and their families in the Athens area,â said Robert Chambers, who was director of the Academy of Athens for 30 years and was good friends with the Cummings family. “I am sorry for his passing, but I am so happy that he has led a wonderful life and contributed to so many people.”
Buhl Cummings, whose three children – Steve, Tim, and Susan (Beacham) – all work in Athens Christian, owned the Athens Bible Bookstore in downtown Lumpkin Street and served as a pastor of the Biblical Mission of Athens before he and his wife founded Athens Christian. His son Tim remembers the circumstances that led to the creation of the school, which opened in 1970 on Milledge Avenue.
“He ran a very successful business in Athens for years,” said Tim Cummings, who in addition to teaching and coaching at the school is also director of sports. âPeople were concerned about the court rulings that took the Bible and prayer out of public schools.
âHe was chairman of the PTA at Chase Street (elementary school) and a big supporter of public education. But when the Bible was out, it really got on fire. People would walk into the store and say, âWe need a Christian school in Athens. My parents were both educators, but he didn’t know if he was supposed to.
Tim Cummings also spoke of his parents’ “leap of faith” to start Athens Christian.
âAfter a while he gathered us together and said, ‘I think the Lord is telling your mother and me to start a Christian school,’â he said. âWhat has always impressed me is when you talk about a total leap of faith, it’s when you don’t have a church behind you, when you don’t have any facilities, when you don’t have rich supporters and you’re trying to do what the Lord told you to do, you don’t even know how you’re going to do it, but you’re going to do it.
âThe Christian school in Athens was founded by the faith, belief and trust of a man and his wife. And 52 years later, it’s still there, it works hard.
After a few years on Milledge Avenue, Athens Christian moved to 30 acres of land on Highway 29 North and now occupies over 80 acres with high end facilities. Buhl Cummings remained principal of the school until 2008, but Steve Cummings said his father’s love for the school never wavered.
“I took over in 2008, but he and my mother were still in school at the time,” he said. “He became Principal Emeritus … He moved away from day-to-day operations but always came back to school, even in his final weeks.”
Jack Bamford, who taught at Athens Christian for 45 years, remembered Cummings as “tireless”.
âHe was a larger than life man,â said Jack Bamford, who taught Athens Christian for 45 years and worked closely with Cummings. âHer whole life has been a panorama of service. When he was active in leadership here at school, he did absolutely everything. In addition to being the administrator of the school, he has coached every season throughout the year, he has supervised the fine arts, all musical and theatrical productions of the school, he has taught and during many years we have had a chapel every day and run the chapels every day.
âHe’s led four tours a year – he’s taken courses in Washington DC, New York, Europe and St. Augustine. And he personally oversaw the school’s physical factory. He knew all about power lines and water pipes and building maintenanceâ¦ I think he slept maybe four hours a night.
The author of the 2010 book “But to Minister”, Cummings was also a successful athletic trainer and recorded over 1,000 victories at the head of women’s teams in volleyball, softball, basketball and track and field, and was inducted into the Athens Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.
âHe was such a sweet and gracious man,â said Blake Giles, who worked in sports at the Athens Banner-Herald from 1969 to 1996. âI don’t know if you could ever piss him off or upset him. He was always so happy to see you and you felt better around him.
“And I think they had the first press box I went to that gave you food and there was always these ladies baking cakes and pies.” He was just a great spirit. What he did by founding the Christian school in Athens was remarkable. So many lives have been improved by its impact.
Cummings is survived by his children and their spouses, 11 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and two young brothers.
âHe loved people, he loved being around people and he loved life,â said Steve Cummings. “He was an icon in the Athens community and he touched thousands and thousands of people in his lifetime.”
âHe’s my hero,â Tim Cummings said. âI’ve told a lot of people that if I could be half the man he was, I’d be double everyone I know. And I believe it. I have seen it work on faith and trust in the Lord and it has worked.
A visit will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, September 26 in the Founders Hall of the Christian School of Athens and the funeral will be at 11 a.m. on Monday, September 27, with internment to follow at Evergreen Memorial Park. .