RUSSELL M. CUNNINGHAM was born in Mount Hope, Alabama, on August 25, 1855. He was educated in public schools of Mount Hope, and taught school at the age of 17. Cunningham studied medicine under Dr. John M. Clark, graduated from Bellevue Hospital Medical College in 1879, and was appointed physician of the Alabama State Penitentiary in 1881. He also was appointed physician and surgeon for the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company in 1885, and physician for the Alabama Steel and Ship Building Company. Cunningham entered political life in 1880, when he was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives, serving until 1881. He was a member of the Alabama Senate from 1896 to 1900, serving as president in 1899. Cunningham was a delegate to the 1901 Constitutional Convention, and was lieutenant governor from 1901 to 1904. Lieutenant Governor Cunningham became acting governor of Alabama, during the absence of Governor Jelks, who was out west due to ill health. He served for approximately ten months, leaving office on March 5, 1905, when Governor Jelks returned. Cunningham returned to the lieutenant governor’s office, serving until 1907. He was unsuccessful in his bid for the 1906 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Cunningham resumed his medical practice, and in 1914 was elected Birmingham’s first health officer. He died on June 6, 1921, and is buried at the Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, Alabama.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.