Cal Cunningham

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Cal Cunningham
James "Cal" Cunningham (cropped).jpg
Member of the North Carolina Senate
from the 23rd district
In office
January 2001 – January 2003
Succeeded byEleanor Kinnaird
Personal details
James Calvin Cunningham III

(1973-08-06) August 6, 1973 (age 46)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationVanderbilt University
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (BA, JD)
London School of Economics (MSc)
WebsiteCampaign website
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service2002–present
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg Major
UnitUnited States Army Reserve
Battles/warsIraq War
War in Afghanistan

James Calvin Cunningham III (born August 6, 1973) is an American lawyer, politician, and a Major in the United States Army Reserve. He is 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,[1][2] losing to Elaine Marshall in a Democratic primary runoff on June 22, 2010.[3][4]

After at first announcing (in late 2018) that he would be a candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2020, Cunningham switched races and announced he would run for the United States Senate in 2020 on June 17, 2019.[5][6]


Early life and education[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[7]

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.[citation needed]

During the summer of 1993, Cunningham attended American University and interned on Capitol Hill for a subcommittee chaired by Senator Carl Levin.[8]

Public Service[edit]


At UNC-Chapel Hill, Cunningham was elected the Student Body President in 1995. He served ex officio on the Board of Trustees,[9] 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.[10] He supported campus transportation and safety, community service initiatives[11] and an overhaul of campus dining.[12]

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[edit]

In November 2000, Cunningham was elected to represent the 23rd Senate District in the 144th Session of the North Carolina General Assembly.[13] At the time of his election, he was North Carolina’s youngest legislator and represented parts of Davidson, Rowan and Iredell Counties.[14] 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.[15]

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,[16] the patient’s bill of rights,[17] the clean smokestacks bill,[18] class size reductions[19] and preservation of farmland.[20]

He did not run for re-election after the 23rd district was split into three Republican-leaning districts by redistricting.[21]

U.S. Army Reserve[edit]

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.[22] 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.[23] For his service in Iraq, Cunningham was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. Cunningham also received the prestigious General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.[24]

In 2005, Cunningham also served with XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg as a Special Assistant United States Attorney.[25] 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.[26]

Cunningham is a graduate of the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course, Airborne School[27] 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[edit]

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.[28] He also served as an appointee of the Governor on the North Carolina Banking Commission.[29] He is formerly the vice chair of the Governor's Crime Commission. [30][31]

2010 Senate campaign[edit]

In 2010, Cunningham filed as a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Richard Burr.[32][33] 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." [34] Cunningham also received the endorsement of the state's largest organization of teachers, the North Carolina Association of Educators.[35] 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.[36]

2020 campaign[edit]

In November 2018 Cunningham filed as a potential candidate for Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina in 2020.[37] On January 8, 2019, Cunningham publicly declared himself an official candidate in the Democratic primary.[38] He later withdrew June 17, 2019, to run for the United States Senate instead.[5]

Legal practice[edit]

Cunningham 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.[citation needed]

Awards, honors, community service[edit]

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.[39] In 2007, he was selected one of the Triad’s Forty Leaders Under Forty.[40]

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.[citation needed]

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 groundbreaking work in Iraq.[24][41]

During college at UNC-Chapel Hill, Cunningham was inducted into the Golden Fleece Honorary Society[42] and the Order of the Grail-Valkyries[43] 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.[citation needed]

In 2007, Cunningham was selected for a Marshall Memorial Fellowship[44] 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.[45]

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.[46]

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.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Cunningham Won't Run for Senate in 2010". Roll Call. November 10, 2009. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  2. ^ Charlotte Observer: Does panel not think Marshall can beat Burr?[dead link]
  3. ^ "Johnson defeats D'Annunzio". June 22, 2010. Retrieved January 16, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Associated Press: Democrat Cal Cunningham enters North Carolina Senate race
  6. ^ Associated Press via New York Times
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "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 January 16, 2011.
  9. ^ [2] Archived January 13, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Transcript, Faculty Council Meeting, September 8, 1995". September 8, 1995. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  11. ^ [3] Archived January 13, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "University Gazette, February 7, 1996". February 7, 1996. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  13. ^ [4][dead link]
  14. ^ [5]
  15. ^ "Keadle vs. Cunningham — Courts uphold voters' choice". November 2, 1999. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  16. ^ NC General Assembly webmasters. "North Carolina General Assembly - Senate Bill 8 Information/History (2001-2002 Session)". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  17. ^ NC General Assembly webmasters. "North Carolina General Assembly - Senate Bill 199 Information/History (2001-2002 Session)". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  18. ^ NC General Assembly webmasters. "North Carolina General Assembly - Senate Bill 1078 Information/History (2001-2002 Session)". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  19. ^ "Keadle calls experience his trump over Cunningham". October 1, 2000. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved January 16, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ Ivey, Steve (March 3, 2008). "Cal Cunningham: Kilpatrick Stockton attorney goes from comforts of Triad to dangers of Iraq". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  22. ^ Ivey, Steve (March 3, 2008). "Cal Cunningham: Kilpatrick Stockton attorney goes from comforts of Triad to dangers of Iraq | The Business Journal". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 3, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "J. Calvin Cunningham, III Lawyer Profile". Archived from the original on October 19, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  26. ^ News & Observer: Cal Cunningham off to Afghanistan Archived September 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ [6]
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 29, 2006. Retrieved April 10, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "Current Banking Commission Members". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  30. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  31. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. ^ "News & Observer: Cunningham makes it official". Archived from the original on February 16, 2010. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  33. ^ "News & Observer: Cunningham's announcement speech". Archived from the original on April 1, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  34. ^ "News & Observer: Cunningham endorsed by retired Gen Wesley Clark". March 29, 2010. Archived from the original on April 1, 2010. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  35. ^ "News & Observer: Cunningham, Lewis pick up endorsements". Archived from the original on April 1, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  36. ^ Catanese, David (June 23, 2010). "Marshall wins N.C. Senate nomination". Politico.Com. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  37. ^ "Cal Cunningham Preparing for 2020 Lieutenant Governor Bid". U.S. News. November 28, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  38. ^ "Lexington Native Cal Cunningham to Run for Lt Gov" Check |url= value (help). The Dispatch. January 8, 2019. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  39. ^ "Jaycees honor five people for service to community". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  40. ^ [7][dead link]
  41. ^ "News & Observer: Cunningham wins Army award". June 11, 2009. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  42. ^ "Order of the Golden Fleece of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1904-2007". April 11, 1904. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  43. ^ "Order of the Grail-Valkyries of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1920-2003". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  44. ^ "People in Business". Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  45. ^ "May/June 2007". Carolina Alumni Review. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
  46. ^ (PDF) Retrieved April 10, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]

External links[edit]