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.
Information provided by Linda Edwards.