John Cummiskey Papers

Identifier: NEJL-001

Scope and Contents

This collection largely comprises John W. Cummiskey’s files related to his activities with the Legal Services Program of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). Materials include correspondence, articles, reports and writings. The bulk of the collection is correspondence related to various issues involving legal services at the OEO. Much of the correspondence is grouped together in folders with multiple correspondents and other material (usually included as enclosures) that relate to a single topic or letter.


  • 1957 - 1980



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John W. Cummiskey, one of the most respected leaders in the campaign for equal access to legal representation, was born in Detroit on April 19, 1917. Cummiskey attended the University of Michigan as an undergraduate and a law student. After his graduation with honors from law school, he worked briefly at the firm of Dickinson Wright before joining the Army as an infantry lieutenant, later transferring to the legal department of the Air Corps division. After being discharged as a major in 1945, Cummiskey joined the firm of McCobb, Heaney, and Dunn in Grand Rapids, where he would begin to earn a reputation as one of the best labor lawyers in the state. In 1956 he elected president of the Michigan State Bar. In 1959, he helped start the firm Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey.

Cummiskey’s chief passion was equal access to justice. That no person should be denied legal representation due to their economic situation was, to Cummiskey, a given, but it was nevertheless a contentious issue that oftentimes pitted the legal world against government policies. Cummiskey fought hard as evidenced in his professional career. Among the many posts he held were Chairman of the Michigan State Advisory Counsel of the Legal Services Corporation; Chairman of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, of which he was a member from 1959 to 1968; Michigan representative for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association; and served on the first National Advisory Committee of Legal Services of the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Cummiskey never slowed down, even into his eighties. He was Chair of the Legal Services Grants Committee of the Michigan State Bar Foundation Board in the 1990s, helped establish the Legal Assistance Center in Grand Rapids, was an active supporter of the Access to Justice Task Force, and a tireless mentor to young lawyers. In 1982, as a tribute to him, the Michigan State Bar created the John W. Cummiskey Award, given annually to a Michigan lawyer for exemplary pro bono service.

John W. Cummiskey passed away in 2002 at the age of 85.


0.4 linear feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged into two series: Correspondence, and topical files. The correspondence series includes correspondence to and from Cummiskey and others. Thematic correspondence (multiple correspondents) include accompanying material such as articles, memoranda, and reports, most of which were enclosures.

The topical series is divided into five subseries: articles and news releases, conference materials, notes and memoranda, reports and manuals, and speeches related to the OEO LSP, and the LSC.

Finding Aid for the John Cummiskey Papers (Coll. 001)
Processed by Anne Mar in 2006, finding aid updated by Katharina Hering in 2013.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the National Equal Justice Library Repository

Georgetown University Law Library
111 G. Street NW
Washington D.C. 20001