Lummis Elementary School named for cousin of Howard Hughes

Lummis Elementary School, 9000 Hillpointe Road, is named for Howard Hughes’ cousin, William R. Lummis.

Lummis (pronounced Luh-miss) is a graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas Law School. He practiced law in Houston for 23 years.

He and his famous cousin met only a couple of times, the last when Lummis was 9. It would be decades before their life paths converged inextricably.

Many of Hughes’ business interests — mines, casinos, land, a TV station — were in, or operated out of, Las Vegas. He bought up roughly 29,000 acres, including what is today Summerlin. But his plans had nothing to do with homes.

“Hughes’ main intention with the Las Vegas property was to find a location for a supersonic terminal,” said Count Guido Robert Deiro , who was Hughes’ director of aviation. “He wanted it to be the termin us of supersonic travel between continents.”

Hughes spent the last 15 years of his life in seclusion, operating an estate that once was estimated to be worth roughly $2.3 billion.

Upon his death on April 5, 1976, it was Lummis who went to the Texas Medical Center in Houston to claim Hughes’ body. Shown the emaciated corpse, Lummis had to double-check that this was the body he was supposed to claim.

There also was confusion as to the billionaire’s final wishes. Hughes’ so-called “Mormon will” was thrown out, and the courts ruled that Hughes died intestate, or without a legal will.

As a result, Lummis, whose mother was Hughes’ closest living relative, became administrator of the tangled Hughes estate.

It caused Lummis to move to Las Vegas, although he and his wife, Doris, kept their home in Texas. Here, he assumed leadership of the Summa Corp. , forerunner to The Howard Hughes Corp .

Lummis is credited with taking the eccentric businessman’s interests and streamlining them and/or making them more productive. Hughes maintained 34 airplanes for his personal use. They were based around the globe in case he wanted to travel anywhere. Besides selling off those, Lummis unloaded the Spruce Goose, Hughes’ famous flying boat that flew only once. He got rid of 3,000 non-operating mining claims and sold off Hughes Airwest.

Lummis gave the boot to executives who had drained as much as $50 million from the company coffers for personal use. Hughes had appointed them to top executive positions even though one had been an errand boy and another his stenographer. It was indicative of the billionaire’s haphazard approach to business.

Merrill Lynch was called in to study the books. It estimates that between 1970 and 1976 the corporation had lost $131.7 million.

In 1980, Lummis told Time m agazine , “Hughes was a lightning rod for every disaster imaginable.”

Lummis, on the other hand, realized the value of Hughes’ Nevada holdings and their potential for growth.

“His direction of the corporation was critical for Las Vegas,” said David Millman, director of the Nevada State Museum. “His planning and forethought … hopefully other developers in the future will learn to plan as (he and his associates) did.”

In 1990, Lummis retired as chief executive officer of T he Hughes Corp . In 2007, he retired from the board of t he Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a non profit, biomedical research arm of the Hughes empire that was established in 1953 by the aviator-industrialist.

Kelly Reed, assistant principal at Lummis Elementary, said the students are informed of who Lummis is at the beginning of each school year and that the faculty could answer children’s questions about him, as most had been at the school since it opened about 20 years ago.

Lummis now lives in Texas.

Contact Summerlin and Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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