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Dr. William Clarke Cunningham, Jr. (1856-1906)
Obituary of former Bay City Mayor and prominent community citizen.

Bay City Tribune - Wednesday, December 6, 1906


Dr. William C. Cunningham, Jr. Health Officer-Once Mayor,
Expires after Illness of Short Duration


Dr. William C. Cunningham, Jr., Health Officer and former Mayor of Bay City, Michigan died suddenly about 9:30am yesterday morning from heart disease, dropsy and complications at age 50. He had been in poor health for years and was well-known and well-liked in both the city and the county. Three years ago he was given up to die. He recovered and until a few days ago was in fairly good health.

Dr. Cunningham died with absolutely no fear of approaching death. A few days ago, while talking to a Tribune reporter of the fact that he might die at any moment, he said in his characteristic vein,

"You know I've had a good many hard knocks in this old world and people have sometimes pushed me harder than I deserved. Fate gave me a kick in the shins and toppled me over just as I was reaching for some of the plums in life, but it's a pretty good old World, just the same and I do feel regretful at knowing that I may leave it at any minute."

"When I was younger I used to hate to think of dying, and while I would like to stay with my wife, boys, girl and all the other folk, I haven't any fear of death at all. When they told me three years ago that it was all off for the Doctor, I took it almost with relief. I don't know what's coming after, but I said to myself, 'I'll take it, just the way I did everything else - call it good'. At that, I do want to live long enough to make a record in the Health Office. The health of a city is one of its most important considerations. American cities don't pay one-tenth the necessary attention to it. I'd like to make a record in this office. It amounts to more now in Bay City than it ever has and then when I've finished, I can say, 'Doc, you did something good for the old town anyway'."

Dr. Cunningham, Jr. is survived by a widow and three children; four brothers, Walter C. Cunningham, MD/DDS of Bay City, Michigan; Robert S. Cunningham, DDS and Archibald C. Cunningham, DDS of Detroit, Michigan; and John C. Cunningham of Alameda, California.

Dr. William C. Cunningham, Jr. was born in Scotland in 1856. He came with his father to Canada in 1860. In 1870 the family moved to Vassar, Michigan and Dr. Cunningham, Jr. entered the University of Michigan, graduating in 1876 from the Law Department at the age of 20. He practiced Law in Bay City, West Branch and Alpena, Michigan.

He was not satisfied with Law and for a time published the Alpena Evening Echo and reported on Saginaw newspapers. He was also elected to the Alpena Board of Education.

When Oklahoma Territory was opened up, he was appointed as Land Commissioner by President Grover Cleveland and also served as a United States Deputy Marshal in the West.

He was married in 1878 to Miss Jane Amelia Waters of Ann Arbor, Michigan. After returning to Bay City, he studied medicine in the Saginaw Medical College and upon graduation, practiced twelve years here.

In 1901 he was elected Mayor of Bay City on the Democratic ticket and upon the expiration of his term was made a member of the Board of Health. For the past several years, he was the City's Health Officer. He made a hard fight against not only the epidemics he had to contend with, but his own physical infirmities.

Dr. Cunningham was a man who made many friends. He was known everywhere he went for his courtesy, as well as his unfailing humor, wit and optimism. In fact, the latter quality stood out all over him and his friends never knew a dull moment when he was near. His humor was of the spontaneous kind and his ready wit enlivened every gathering he attended. He was never at a loss for well chosen short speeches and he was never so much at home as when presiding in the Council or at political meetings. As a result, he was much in demand for such occasions.

Additional Notes.

    History of Bay County, Mich. - Gansser, 1905. Dr. Cunningham was mayor of Bay City in 1902-03.

    1880 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Cunningham, William - b. 1830 Scotland - physican (Wm's father)
  • Ellen, wife - b. 1831 Scotland
  • Walter son - b. 1853 Scotland - physician
  • Grace, dau. - b. 1865 Canada
  • John, son - b. 1867 Canada
  • Lizzie, dau. - b. 1870 Canada

    1881/2 - Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Cunningham, William - [physician & surgeon, 405 Center Ave., res ns 65th bet Sherman & Sheridan

    1883 - Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Cunningham, William - phytsician, Room 6 Opera House block, res ws Van Buren 2 s of 4th

    1890/91 - Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Cunningham, Wm. - physician, 911 6th, res same

    1894 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Cunningham, Walter - b. 1853 (Wm.'s brother)
  • Rosa M., wife - b. 1861
  • Grace, dau. - b. 1890
  • Roberta, dau. - b. 1893

    1900 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Cunningham, William - Oct. 1856 Scotland.
  • Amilia J., wife - b. Jul 1857 Mich.
  • Walter W., son - b. Oct 1886 Mich.
  • Allan, son - b Sep 1882 Mich.
  • Semer, Daisey, dau. - b. May 1880 - married 1899.

    1902 - The Nucleolus - Saginaw Valley Medical College - March, 1902

  • Dr. William Cunningham, mayor of Bay City and a graduate of the Saginaw Valley Medical College, was right in his element in responding to the toast, "The Polical Doctor." The doctor has long borne the reputation of being a good story teller, and those present were not disappointed on this occasion. However, it is but just to the "political doctor" to say that he was serious long enough to take a political office.
Related Note & Pages

Dr. Wm. C. Cunningham
Mayor of Bay City

Related Pages:
Cunningham/Walters Fam.
People Referenced
Cleveland, Grover (President)
Cunningham, Alan (son)
Cunningham, Archibald (bro)
Cunningham, Daisy (dau.)
Cunningham, Grace (sis)
Cunningham, Grace (g-dau)
Cunningham, John C. (bro)
Cunningham, Lizzie (sis)
Cunningham, Robert S. (bro)
Cunningham, Roberta (g-dau)
Cunningham, Rosa Mrs.
-- (d-inlaw)
Cunningham, Walter c. (bro)
Cunningham, Walter W. (son)
Cunningham, Wm. (father)
Cunningham, Wm. C. (subject)
Semer, Mr. (s-inlaw)
Waters, Jane Amelia (wife)
Subjects Referenced
Alameda, CA
Alpena Board of Education
Alpena Eveing Echo
Alpena, MI
Ann Arbor, MI
Bay City Mayor
Bay City Tribune
Board of Health member
Detroit, MI
Health officer
Land commissioner
Oklahoma Territory
Saginaw Medical College
Saginaw newspapers
U.S. Deputy Marshall
Univ. of Michigan
Vassar, MI
West Branch, MI
Internet References
  • [Clan Cunningham] - History on William Cunninghams family of Bay City.
  • WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.