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Cunningham-Mitchell Collection

Identifier: 2017.009

Scope and Contents

This collection primarily materials collected by James C. Cunningham, including items used in his legal practice. It consists of a number of newspapers documenting various subjects, a 1956 directory for First Baptist Church in Clarksville, a collection of law books, a series of photographs documenting the 1949 collapse of the Masonic Building in downtown Clarksville, and photographs of an unidentified hunting club. Regarding the newspapers, there are six editions of the Nashville Tennessean documenting the death and funeral of Governor Austin Peay, three Leaf-Chronicle newspapers documenting the aftermath of Germany’s surrender to Allied Forces in 1945, and two newspapers from December 1952 (one Nashville Banner Nashville Banner and one Leaf-Chronicle).


  • 1921 - 1975


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use. Some fragile materials have been reproduced and facimile copies will be made available to researchers rather than the originals.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Montgomery County in 1917, James Chapman Cunningham was the son of John T. Cunningham, a prominent lawyer and judge in Montgomery County. He attended Clarksville High School and graduated as the salutorian in 1934. In 1938 he married Anne Peay Rudolph. The couple went on to have two daughters, Cornelia Cunningham and Anne Chapman Cunningham.

James followed in his father's footsteps, and also began to practice law after graduating from Cumberland Law School in Lebanon, Tennessee. He went on to practice law for nearly forty years. He also served as a U.S. Magistrate from 1971 until his death in 1974.


6.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Chronological. This collection is arranged in four series based on material type:

Series I: Newspapers (Copies)--Death and Funeral of Governor Austin Peay, 1927 Series II: 1956 Baptist Church Directory Series III: Programs--Clarksville High School Football, 1955-1958 Series IV: Oversized items and Newspapers (Originals)--Assorted Topics, 1927-1952 Series V: Books--Law and miscellaneous books Series VI: Photographs

Materials Specific Details

Born June 1, 1876, Austin Peay served as governor of Tennessee from 1923 until his death in 1927. Although Peay was born in Kentucky, he eventually made his home in Tennessee, settling down in Clarksville in the 1890s. From there he began a career in politics, winning the Montgomery County seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1900. He was later elected governor of Tennessee in 1922, four years after an unsuccessful bid for the same office. Peay served two full two-year terms during which he enacted tax reform, education reform, and sought to improve Tennessee’s infrastructure. He is perhaps best known for signing the Butler Act in 1925 which banned the teaching of the Theory of Evolution in Tennessee schools, setting the stage for the infamous Scopes Trial. Peay won a third term as governor in 1926, but was already beginning to experience health issues. He died on October 2, 1927 from a cerebral hemorrhage, before his third term as governor ended. Following his funeral, Governor Peay was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Clarksville, TN. Governor Peay was the only governor to die while in office in Tennessee, and as a result there was significant media coverage. The newspapers in this collection document the days following Peay’s death, including his funeral and community responses.

The August 12, 1949 collapse of the Masonic Building at Third and Commerce Streets in downtown Clarksville was a nationally reported event, in part due to photographs captured by local photographer L. J. Dancey. Dancey owned a photography studio that was located nearby and was able to capture dramatic photographs of the building in mid-collapse. It is possible that some of the photographs in this collection were taken by Dancey, but that is unconfirmed. You can see how the destruction of the building progressed, with some shots clearly taken while debris was falling. One of the Dancey's photographs received national attention when it was featured in an August issue of Time. One person, Ralph Richards, was killed in the collapse.

Processing Information

No order was discernable at the time of donation. The materials have been arranged chronologically by subject and material type. The 1927 newspapers documenting the death and funeral of Austin Peay are in very poor condition. They have been copied onto acid free paper and access copies are available to researchers, while the originals have been retained for permanent storage in the Archives. All photographs have been removed and placed in the Archives Photograph Collection.

Cunningham-Mitchell Collection
Sarah Fry
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Montgomery County Archives Repository

350 Pageant Lane
Suite 101D
Clarksville Tennessee 30741 United States