Beverly Miller Summers: The Passing of an Extraordinary Person
by Frank Wynerth Summers III on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 10:17am ·
Beverly Miller Summers was the daughter of Dr. Preston Joseph Miller who moved into Vermilion Parish and Laura Broussard who was a native of Cow Island and tied to old and prominent rural landowning familes. The Broussards also held important positions in Acadian life and culture which cannot be adequately described in this brief note. My grandmother had owned in her life quite few thousands of acres of lands nearby acquired, owned and transferred in quite a varied and complex range of property rights and conveyances. These lands were all in the region traditionaly known as the Terre des Attakapas. This was a lnd named for Aboriginal American tribe known for small numbers, ferocity and cannibalism who were very diminished in wars with other Aboriginal American nations, the Spanish and the French before the Acadians under Joseph Broussard came to this region. The Prairie where Abbeville and Lafayette sit is the Attakapas country in Acadian and Louisiana parlance. A good number of Atakapas (or Attakapas of Atakkapas) were killed inskirmishes and there wives and children taken as mistresseses and second families by the Acadians. Some of their descendants joined the Houma who also interbred and intermarried heavily with the Acadians. The Attakapas name was so hated by neighbors that only people who are almost pure European White have ever dared to use it since first contact. There are remenants but no tribe. The remnants are spread over a large area.
My grandmother’s mother’s family were descendants of Joseph Broussard. my obviously he was also my ancestor, resistance leader in Acadie, Captain of the Attakapas, little understood he stands tall as the founding Basileus of the New Acadia. He held a uniquely high status for a colonist with the British, French and Spanish although he did not have an easy life as a result. Joseph Broussard is known Broussard dit Beausoleil. “Beausoleil” means beautiful sunlight in French among other things. It is also the name of a town in Acadie where several families including the Broussards lived. Part of the identifying handle of Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil. Beausoleil is also a code name for Basileus. Beausoleil is also the name of a band led by Michael Doucet who is on my Friends list here on Facebook who based on a few comments made over the years some have alleged to be an Acadian royalist although neither he nor his band have assented to this in plain language.
Gammie’s mother died when she was a child and her childhood was dominated by her father. One of the last projects we worked on was when the current Abbeville branch of the Vermilion Parish Library was built on the site of the Palms Hospital and I used her as a source for a large feature on this for a local periodical. This periodical was Bonnes Nouvelles (Vermilion) This is a sort of newspaper formatted cultural magazine published monthly in Abbeville for which I once wrote feature articles and columns for a significant stint. My column was called A Summery of the Local Cultural Scene. After her childhood she began a romance that lasted all his life with my grandfather. This man became Justice Frank Wynerth Summers who was briefly Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court at the end of his public carreer as a Louisiana jurist, my grandfather was a Louisiana Supreme Court Justice and with the earlier time he was a judge this gave him a judical carreer for a long time. He was a farmer and cattleman and he was involved in many things which I will not mention here. He died just months before I finished my Master of Arts degree at LSU. My grandfather was descended from the Leblancs on his mother’s side. He was descended from Severin Leblanc: A Comite man, a businessman and much of a mystery. Among people who believe in such things he was regarded as the likely or certain first Basileus named Leblanc and was also my ancestor. My grandfather’s brother and his wife also reared the daughter
of Dudley Leblanc. This man was an exceptional entrepreneur, legislator, author and Acadian activist. Dudley is said in some circles to be the last Basileus named Leblanc. He also gave statues of St. Therese to numerous local Catholic churches. He was my cousin. Gammy and Paupau began to date before college.
She attended Louisiana State University with her siter and both became teachers in the public school system. This also set a bit of a family precedent. This is the largest school in the state famous in sports both as Louisiana State University and also LSU. This is the place where I got my Master of Arts degree. I attended as a holder of the Board of Regents Fellowship. It is the largest university in Louisiana, home of the Fighting Tigers or Bayou Bengals and has many claims to excellence. My sister graduated with a perfect academic average after matriculating for only three and a half years while she worked and during which time she was wed and gave birth to her first child. She was admitted as a National Merit Scholar Her husband to be went elsewhere. Just before their marriage Paupau was in New Orleans. He attended Tulane University The largest private (according to US definitions) university in Louisiana. Beverly’s father and uncle who were my great-grandfather and great- great uncle attended Tulane Medical School and graduated there. My grandfather and name sake he attended and graduated from Tulane Law School. He made Moot Court honors and later became the Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Beverly, or Gammie, was active in the Tulane community later on and my father and two of his three younger brothers completed Tulane Law School. I have several cousins with a variety of Tulane degrees. I enrolled at Tulane Law School twice and never graduated. With some exceptions my relationship with the university could be described as more than half-hostile but regretfully so. My grandfather had attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute for undergraduate studies. This is now the University of Louisiana, was the University of Southwestern Louisiana when I graduated. It was and still is the Universite des Acadiens. I was Outstanding Graduate of my class. One of a few universities with a Francophone studies program, there are centers for Louisiana and Acadian studies, programs in wetlands management and eco-tourism and some solid advanced technology programs. I and one brother and one sister graduated from there with Latin honors — I the lowest of these purely academic honors among my siblings. I have another brother who attended there with graduating just below the latin honors. Justice Frank Wynerth Summers and Dudley Leblanc of this note were also alumni. My mother also earned her bachleor’s degree here starting before me and finishing after me.
Gammie was nicknamed Codrie for Cocodrie or crocodile. While Legarte is the correct word for alligator in french here we have often used cocodrie. This was a hurtful name based on the jagged teeth she had as a child. She adopted much gatorlike toughness and agression which lurked between the smooth waters of her manners, good English, hospitailty and learning. Gammie was a very complex person. She led many elite social gtoups in New Orleans, raveled extensively, read voraciously and was engaged in countless projects but really was proud to be of the leisured class. She had ambivalent feelings and opinions about her Acadian, British, Hebrew and French forebears. She was very patriotic and yet could be very critical of America and Americans.
Her children are Frank Wynerth Summers II, Preston Miller Summers, Susan Priscilla Summers, Clay James Summers, the late Willam Charles Summers and Beverly Marie Summers (Mrs. Carl Tasso Smith III) who is known to many as Missi Summers Smith. Her sister is Lottie Lucia Miller Massie and her brother was Preston Joseph Miller Junior. My grandmother, Beverly Miller Summers was exceptionaly old even by today’s standards. While she was younger than my great-grandmother on my mother’s side who was over one hundred years old when she died she was still very old in her mid-nineties. It is impossible to do justice here to all the grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other realtives who will miss her. She and I had largely passed out of each other’s loves before she died although we did not have an acrimonious relationship.
I’m so sorry to read this. I will always remember Mrs. Summers as a lovely lady. When we stayed with her, she was gracious, warm, funny, hospitable. An engaging conversationalist. The perfect hostess. I remember when you and I decided to dress formally for dinner, and somehow your grandparents caught wind of our plan and surprised us at the dinner table, your grandfather in a tuxedo (the first I’d seen up close) and your grandmother in a lovely evening gown. You were blessed in their presence in your life, as was I, even briefly.
With sympathy, Mark
Thank you for this. It is a real and personal comment coming from your own private experience of them and therefore (though it may seem odd to think this way) it is both unique and as precious as anyone reading it finds it to be. In my case, I appreciate this comment quite a bit.
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