Military Wiki
Cal Cunningham
Member of the North Carolina Senate
from the 23rd district

In office
January 2001 – January 2003
Succeeded by Eleanor Kinnaird [1]
Personal details
Born August 6, 1973(1973-08-06) (age 49)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Cunningham
Residence Lexington, North Carolina
Alma mater University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Profession attorney
Religion Presbyterian

James Calvin "Cal" Cunningham III (born 6 August 1973) is an attorney, captain in the United States Army Reserve, and a former member of the North Carolina Senate. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Cunningham ran for the United States Senate in 2010,[2][3] losing to Elaine Marshall in a Democratic primary runoff on June 22, 2010.[4][5]


Early life and education

Cunningham was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and grew up in Lexington, North Carolina. He attended the Lexington City Schools and Forsyth Country Day School where he graduated in 1991. Cunningham studied at Vanderbilt University before transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He graduated from UNC in 1996 with a Bachelor's degree (with Honors) in Political Science and Philosophy. Cunningham received a Master's of Science in Public Policy and Public Administration from the London School of Economics. He was awarded a law degree in 1999 from University of North Carolina School of Law.[6]

Cunningham also studied government in Thun, Switzerland, business and finance at the Carolina Business Institute and international law through the Duke University Asian American Transnational Law Institute in Hong Kong.

During the summer of 1993, Cunningham attended American University and interned on Capitol Hill for a subcommittee chaired by Senator Carl Levin.[7]

Public Service


At UNC-Chapel Hill, Cunningham was elected the Student Body President in 1995. He served ex officio on the Board of Trustees,[8] the General Alumni Association Board of Directors, the Athletic Council, and the Board of Visitors. During his tenure, Cunningham worked to allocate tuition funds for need-based financial aid, faculty pay and the libraries.[9] He supported campus transportation and safety, community service initiatives[10] and an overhaul of campus dining.[11]

During law school, Cunningham served as Chief Justice of the Student Supreme Court. He held the position for two terms and published the first Report of the Court’s cases.

State Senate

In November 2000, Cunningham was elected to represent the 23rd Senate District in the 144th Session of the North Carolina General Assembly.[12] At the time of his election, he was North Carolina’s youngest legislator and represented parts of Davidson, Rowan and Iredell Counties.[13] After the campaign, another candidate challenged Cunningham’s residency. The challenge was denied by the local and state Boards of Elections, Superior Court, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The North Carolina Supreme Court later refused to grant a stay against the earlier decision of the Court of Appeals.[14]

In the Senate, Cunningham served as Vice Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and on the Education Appropriations, Policy and Joint Oversight Committees. Cunningham worked on privacy legislation, campaign reform,[15] the patient’s bill of rights,[16] the clean smokestacks bill,[17] class size reductions[18] and preservation of farmland.[19]

He did not run for re-election after the 23rd district was split into three Republican-leaning districts by redistricting.[20]

U.S. Army Reserve

Cunningham was commissioned in the Army Reserve, Judge Advocate General's Corps in 2002 and has been mobilized for two active duty tours. In the Reserve, he serves with an airborne unit at Fort Bragg (North Carolina).

In 2007, Cunningham was mobilized by XVIII Airborne Corps and served as the senior trial counsel, Multi-National Corps - Iraq.[21] In Iraq, he pioneered an effort with the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute felony contractor misconduct and worked with the Major Procurement Fraud Task Force. He was lead counsel in the first court-martial of a contractor/civilian under the Uniform Code of Military Justice since 1968.[22] For his service in Iraq, Cunningham was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. Cunningham also received the prestigious General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.[23]

In 2005, Cunningham also served with XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg as a Special Assistant United States Attorney.[24] He prosecuted felony and misdemeanor crimes committed on the Fort Bragg military reservation.

Cunningham was assigned to work with a special operations task force in Afghanistan in 2011.[25]

Cunningham is a graduate of the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course, Airborne School[26] and the Officer Basic Course. Prior to September 11, 2001, Cunningham served as a Third Class Petty Officer, Naval Reserve with Military Sealift Command, Port of Wilmington.

Other involvement

Cunningham serves on various boards and commissions. Since 2003, he has served as an appointee of the Governor on the Board of Trustees of Davidson County Community College.[27] He also served as an appointee of the Governor on the North Carolina Banking Commission.[28] Cunningham serves on the North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Committee.

Senate campaign

In 2010, Cunningham filed as a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Richard Burr.[29][30] Other candidates in the May 4 Democratic primary included Elaine Marshall and Ken Lewis. Retired NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark endorsed Cunningham, saying that he would be "the first veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to serve in the U.S. Senate." [31] Cunningham also received the endorsement of the state's largest organization of teachers, the North Carolina Association of Educators.[32] Cunningham finished in second place in the primary, but since no candidate received 40 percent of the vote, he was entitled to advance to a runoff with the first-place finisher, Marshall. He lost the runoff election on June 22, 2010, with leading Democrats acknowledging that "the Wes Clark contingent in the (Democratic) party isn't really big".[33]

Legal practice

Cunningham is a litigation attorney with Carolina Litigation Group, handling "cases in a variety of subject areas from complex real estate disputes, breaches of contract and business torts to catastrophic personal injury and products liability." He is admitted to the Bar in North Carolina and admitted to practice before the Western, Middle and Eastern District federal courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.[34]

Awards, honors, community service

Cunningham has been recognized for his leadership by his selection as one of the Jaycees’ Outstanding Young North Carolinians and with the Distinguished Service Award.[35] In 2007, he was selected one of the Triad’s Forty Leaders Under Forty.[36]

For his military service, Cunningham has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (3x), the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (2x), the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” Device (2x) and the Parachutist Badge.

In 2009, Cunningham was awarded the General Douglas MacArthur Award for Leadership as one of the outstanding company grade officers in the Army, including for his ground-breaking work in Iraq.[23][37]

During college at UNC-Chapel Hill, Cunningham was inducted into the Golden Fleece Honorary Society[38] and the Order of the Grail-Valkyries[39] for his work in positions of student leadership. He was also inducted into the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society for his academic work.

Cunningham appeared as a panelist on the American Public Television program, The Struggle for Moral Leadership, a series of two one-hour programs that explore ethics and morality in political leadership, which was moderated by Harvard University professor Arthur Miller and included political analyst George Stephanopoulos.[40]

In 2007, Cunningham was selected for a Marshall Memorial Fellowship[41] and traveled to Belgium, France, Italy, Denmark and Poland to meet with government and civic leaders about Trans-Atlantic security, combating Islamic extremism and terrorism.[42]

Cunningham has received a Pro Bono Impact Award and recognition from Legal Aid of Forsyth County for legal representation of victims of domestic violence and of tenants in disputes with their landlords.[43]

Cunningham served from 2002 to 2005 as a Deacon at the First Presbyterian Church of Lexington and a partial term in 2006-07 as an Elder on the Session. He resigned from the Session for his deployment to Iraq.

Personal life

Cunningham lives in Lexington with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children, Caroline (born 2002) and Will (born 2003). In 2007, Cunningham and his wife ran their fifth marathon together in Lake Tahoe. They have a golden retriever named Davidson.


  1. Kinnaird was elected to represent the same numbered district (23rd); geographically, the district no longer exists.
  2. "Cunningham Won’t Run for Senate in 2010". Roll Call. 2009-11-10. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  3. Charlotte Observer: Does panel not think Marshall can beat Burr?[dead link]
  4. "Johnson defeats D'Annunzio". 2010-06-22. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  6. [1][dead link]
  7. "Full text of "S. 885, to modify congressional restrictions on gifts : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, first session, on S. 885 ... July 19, 1993"". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  8. [2][dead link]
  9. "Transcript, Faculty Council Meeting, September 8, 1995". 1995-09-08. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  10. [3][dead link]
  11. "University Gazette, February 7, 1996". 1996-02-07. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  12. [4][dead link]
  13. [5][dead link]
  14. "Keadle vs. Cunningham — Courts uphold voters’ choice". 1999-11-02. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  15. NC General Assembly webmasters. "North Carolina General Assembly - Senate Bill 8 Information/History (2001-2002 Session)". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  16. NC General Assembly webmasters. "North Carolina General Assembly - Senate Bill 199 Information/History (2001-2002 Session)". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  17. NC General Assembly webmasters. "North Carolina General Assembly - Senate Bill 1078 Information/History (2001-2002 Session)". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  18. "Keadle calls experience his trump over Cunningham". 2000-10-01. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  20. Ivey, Steve (2008-03-03). "Cal Cunningham: Kilpatrick Stockton attorney goes from comforts of Triad to dangers of Iraq". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  21. Ivey, Steve (2008-03-03). "Cal Cunningham: Kilpatrick Stockton attorney goes from comforts of Triad to dangers of Iraq | The Business Journal". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  23. 23.0 23.1
  24. "J. Calvin Cunningham, III Lawyer Profile". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  25. News & Observer: Cal Cunningham off to Afghanistan
  26. [6][dead link]
  28. "Current Banking Commission Members". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  29. "News & Observer: Cunningham makes it official". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  30. "News & Observer: Cunningham's announcement speech". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  31. "News & Observer: Cunningham endorsed by retired Gen Wesley Clark". 2010-03-29. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  32. "News & Observer: Cunningham, Lewis pick up endorsements". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  33. DAVID CATANESE (6/11/2010). "Marshall wins N.C. Senate nomination - David Catanese". Politico.Com. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  34. Carolina Litigation Group
  35. "Jaycees honor five people for service to community". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  36. [7][dead link]
  37. "News & Observer: Cunningham wins Army award". 2009-06-11. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  38. "Order of the Golden Fleece of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1904-2007". 1904-04-11. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  39. "Order of the Grail-Valkyries of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1920-2003". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  40. [8][dead link]
  41. "People in Business". Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  42. "May/June 2007". Carolina Alumni Review. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  43. [9][dead link]

External links

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Category:People from Davidson County, North Carolina