James Hutchings Cunningham was born in Annisquan, Massachusetts, on 15 June 1886, the son of Charles E. and Marilla Griffin Cunningham. Jimmie came from an old Gloucester family, prominent in both military and civil affairs in Massachusetts. His grandfather, James A. Cunningham, served in the Civil War in all grades from captain to brigadier general; was on Grant’s staff and later adjutant general of Massachusetts and governor of the Chelsea Soldiers Home.
Jimmie received his education in the Gloucester schools, graduating from the high school there in 1904. He was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy by Congressman Augustus P. Gardner and graduated in 1908.
Upon his graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of Coast Artillery and assigned to the harbor defenses of the Potomac, Fort Washington, Maryland, where he served until 1912.
From 1912 to 1916, he was an instructor in the French department at West Point. He went from there to Fort Williams, Maine, for a short period and then to France in the first World War.
While overseas, he served at the Heavy Artillery School at Mailly; at Army Artillery headquarters; and at CHQ, Chaumont, in the office of the Chief of Artillery, AEF.
From 1919 to 1923, he was on duty with G2, War Department General Staff. The next four years were spent as a student, first at the Coast Artillery School, Fort Monroe, Virginia, then at the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and finally, for two years, at the Ecole Supcrieure de Guerre, Paris, France. Upon his return to the United States, he was assigned to the harbor defense at Fort Monroe as the regimental commander of the 61st Coast Artillery, the unit he later took overland to Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He graduated from the Army War College in 1932 and then began a 4-year tour with the War Plans Division of the General Staff. Next came an assignment to Fort Mills, Corregidor, Philippines, with the 91st and 60th Coast Artillery, followed by a stateside tour with the harbor defenses of Puget Sound and the 14th Coast Artillery, Fort Worden, Washington.
He became commanding general for the harbor defenses, northwestern sector, Western Defense Command, in 1941. Fort Worden was his final command. He retired in 1946 and returned to his boyhood home at 44 River Road, Annisquan, Massachusetts. Actually he never fully retired, for he continued his interest in many civilian and community activities.
Jimmie and his wife, Ann Kimberly Gifford, whom he married at Fort Monroe in 1909, greatly enjoyed their annual winter cruises around the world. She and a grandson and a great-grandson, James H. Cunningham IV, survive him. Their son, James H. Cunningham, Jr., USMA 1932, one of the early air mail pilots, was killed in a plane accident in 1943.
In addition to his World War I and II service medals, Jimmie was awarded the French Order of University Palms, Officier de l’lnstruction Publique—Gold Palms.