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Eugenia I. Cunningham (1878-1963)


MRS. EUGENIA ISABELLA CUNNINGHAM, who served on the staff of Oakwood College and was widely known as "Mother Cunningham," died on June 20, 1963, at the Riverside Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Funeral services were conducted in the auditorium of Moran Hall on the Oakwood College campus.
Born Eugenia Isabella Cartwright, January 31, 1878, near Greenville, Mississippi, she was the daughter of former slaves who served on a plantation in the tidewater section of Virginia. The family later moved to Mississippi and were caught in the great flood of 1882 when the levee system broke in more than 700 places, spreading death and desolation everywhere. Under the threat of floodwaters the family left and resettled in Stoneville, Mississippi, where Eugenia attended elementary school. When her mother died, Eugenia's academic program was interrupted in favor of jobs to help pay doctor bills. Years later when she was past 35 she went to Oakwood to begin high school work, and it was there that she was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In 1917 she was married to Lewey Cunningham. They had one child, Charles Coleman. Along with her schoolwork she was employed by the college as superintendent of the orphanage, and in later years she served as matron of the dining room, dean of women, manager of the college laundry and of the college store. She served the institution in various capacities for nearly fifty years, and became endeared to alumni all over the nation and in many parts of the world.

Cunningham Hall, college women's residence, on the Oakwood campus is named in her honor. Her life story is the subject of an autobiography, Make Bright the Memories, which was published in 1954 by the Southern Publishing Association in Nashville, Tennessee.

The writer spoke words of comfort at the funeral. Mrs. Cunningham was buried in Brandontown near Oakwood College. Mourning her loss is her son, Charles Coleman Cunningham, educational superintendent and Missionary Volunteer secretary of the South Atlantic Conference, and numerous other relatives and friends.

-Louis B. Reynolds, North American Informant, July-August 1963