“Well done thy good and faithful servant…” Matthew 25:23
Ida Mae (Davis) Cumbest was born June 6, 1921 in the Americus Community of northeast Jackson County, Mississippi. She was the oldest of four children, all daughters, of John Marvin Davis and wife Gordie Goff Davis. Ida Mae was the third great granddaughter of Matthew Carter and Cassandra Barbour Carter. Matthew Carter was the only Revolutionary War Soldier to be buried in Jackson County, Mississippi. Ida Mae married James Elvis Cumbest of the Cumbest Bluff Community on December 15, 1948. They had two children, Elvis Mark Cumbest and James Brent Cumbest.
Ida Mae grew up in a musical family at their family home in Harleston, Mississippi. As a child and on up into her teenage years her family had a band. They would play at social functions in Jackson and George Counties. Ida Mae played the Hawaiian guitar, her sister Ann played the banjo, her sister Hazel played the guitar, her mother Gordie played the piano, and her father Marvin played the violin. Her father hand-made superior quality violins. He worked at the Davis Sawmill with his brother, Carley Davis. The sawmill was located on what is now Davis Sawmill Road in the Harleston Community of northeast Jackson County, Mississippi. She taught piano lessons for five years at the Hurley Grammar School and later taught private lessons from her home for several years.
After her graduation from Moss Point High School in 1939, Ida Mae worked as a file clerk at the Onyx Knitting Mill which later became known as the Cinderella Knitting Mill in Moss Point. She then worked at Emerson’s Grocery in Harleston.
In the Summer of 1942 Ida Mae became the pianist at Caswell Springs United Methodist Church in Jackson County. She served as church pianist until 1961 when the new church sanctuary was built which called for a church organ. It was then that she became the church organist. She would continue as the church organist until 2017, a total of 75 years of service to the Church as pianist and organist. For her 90th birthday celebration which was held at the Church’s Center for Ministry, she was presented the Guinness World Record for “The Longest Tenured Church Pianist and Organist in the World.”
In her lifetime she performed her musical talents for an estimated 7,462 Sunday Worship Services, 3,900 Wednesday Prayer Meeting Services, 225 weddings, and 150 funeral services. She also accompanied church choirs, soloists, singing groups, and participated in many Christmas and Easter Cantatas and other programs over the years. She never asked for payment for any of her musical talents but was always willing to give of herself to help others. At Caswell Springs United Methodist Church she was a member of the Fellowship Sunday School Class, United Methodist Women, and the Caswell Springs Road Runners.
On October 14, 2012 she was presented an award from the Congregation of Salem Camp Meeting and the Salem Methodist Campground Association for serving faithfully for 56 years as the pianist and later the organist at Salem Methodist Camp Meeting, a historic annual event which began in 1826 (which had as one of its founders her third great grandfather, the aforementioned Matthew Carter).
On May 11, 2015 she was presented a framed resolution signed by each member of the Jackson County Board of Education for her faithfully serving 58(?) years as the pianist for the annual Baccalaureate Services at Wade High School and later at the new East Central High School in Jackson County.
On May 15, 2011 she was presented a Resolution from the Administrative Board of Caswell Springs United Methodist Church recognizing her for not only her many years as the Church Pianist and Organist, but for her being a Christian role model for the entire Congregation.
On June 5, 2011 Ida Mae received the Lifetime Achievement Award for contributions to Music and Worship from the Mississippi Chapter of the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. The award was presented at the 2011 Mississippi United Methodist Conference in Jackson, Mississippi.
On June 6, 2011 on the occasion of her 90th birthday, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour issued a signed and sealed Governor’s Proclamation declaring June 6, 2011 as “ida Mae Cumbest Day” in the State of Mississippi.
On November 20, 2016, the congregation of Caswell Springs United Methodist Church declared that Sunday “Ida Mae Cumbest Appreciation Day.” (Get from WLOX News Archives).
Her last time to play the church organ at Caswell Springs United Methodist Church was in May of 2018 when she and Pianist Rena Danley together played one of the Great Hymns of the Church, “Doxology” written by Thomas Ken in 1674:
“Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
Ida Mae Cumbest passed to her heavenly home on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. She is preceded in death by her husband of almost 64 years James Elvis Cumbest, her parents, John Marvin Davis and Gordie Goff Davis, her sisters Hazel (Tommy) McDonald, Ann McMillan, Lorraine (J.C.) Partlow, and paternal half sister, Elva Herndon.
She is survived by her sons, Elvis Mark Cumbest and James Brent (Patti) Cumbest, two grandsons Grant Cumbest and Reid Cumbest, and two granddaughters Rachel Cumbest (Jonathan) Barker, and Caroline Cumbest.