John Atkinson Cunningham was born in 1846 in Richmond, Virginia. Due to his poor health as a child, he was educated at home by a French governess. In 1864, at the age of 18 he enlisted in the Confederate Army and served in Captain Willis Jefferson Dance’s Company until the end of the Civil War. Cunningham studied ancient languages and mathematics at the University of Virginia from 1865 to 1868 before moving to Kentucky where he taught at a military academy in New Castle. In 1870, he joined the faculty at the University of Nashville as Chair of the Latin Department. In 1875, he married Florence M. Boyd, of Nashville, with whom he had a son. Shortly thereafter, he moved his family back to Richmond, where his wife died in 1876. In 1877, he became principal of the Madison School in Richmond. Cunningham was married again in 1884 to Martha Macon Eggleston of Cumberland County, Virginia. His second marriage produced three children.
In 1887, Cunningham was named president of [then] State Female Normal School in Farmville. During his tenure at the school, he oversaw the construction of several modern brick buildings as well as the installation of electric lighting in 1891. He nearly doubled the faculty and increased enrollment from 90 in 1887 to 250 in 1897. In 1897, Cunningham contracted meningitis and within months succumbed to the illness.
A three-building dormitory complex completed in 1928, 1939, and 1958 was named in his honor. The buildings were razed in 2014 to make room for the now-completed Upchurch University Center.Provenance
This collection of photographs, taken by John A. Cunningham between 1890 and 1891, was given to the school circa 1914 by Cunningham’s son. An accompanying statement “emphasize[s] the wonderful achievement of Dr. [Joseph L.] Jarman in bringing to its present state, from a very modest beginning, the ‘plant’ of the State Teachers College.”Scope and Content
This collection consists of (6) photographic images, taken by John A. Cunningham between 1890 and 1891. The photographs include images of some of the early campus architecture, faculty, and students.Size
This collection consists of (6) photographic images in (6) archival sleeves, contained in an archival photograph binder.Notes
There are no restrictions to access or use for research purposes.