Skip to main content

James Cunningham oral history

Identifier: OH072

Scope and Contents

In an oral history interview conducted by Jerry Handfield for the Indiana State Library on February 9, 1977, James Cunningham discusses his parents and their Irish heritage, his father’s work at the Pennsylvania railroad and move to the near South Side. He talks about attending St. John’s Catholic school, the brothers of the Holy Cross and school life in the early twentieth century. He talks about growing up in the near south side, the sports he participated in as a child and part time jobs he held growing up.

He mentioned dropping out of the University of Notre Dame and starting his first job, his eventual start in politics and how his brother influenced his career choice. Cunningham also talks about living in Indianapolis in the twenties and the social atmosphere downtown. His continual love of sports comes up as he recalls riding around the speedway with Wild Bill Cummins and living across the street from Reb Russell’s family. He ends the interview talking about his love for the city and its people.


  • 1977/02/09


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

James Frances Cunningham “Mr. Democrat” was born August 5th 1902 in Indianapolis. His parents were Thomas J. and Ella A. Cunningham. He had three siblings Bob, Carey, and Mary Cunningham. James graduated from St John’s Catholic High School and attended the University of Notre Dame for two years before dropping out. He started in politics in1922 as a polling clerk, and in 1934, he was elected to Center Township assessor a position he held for 36 years. He was also elected to the sheriff’s office in 1948 for a single term. Cunningham retired from office on December 31, 1978 after losing bid for a tenth term. Despite the loss, Cunningham remained involved in politics, serving on the Marion County Liquor Board in 1979. Mr. Cunningham passed away October 9th 1989.


0.01 Cubic Feet (1 transcript, 1 folder, 1 reel-to-reel audiotape)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged by format.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as part of the Indiana State Library Oral History Project during the 1970s.


No further additions are expected.

Processing Information

Collection processed and finding aid completed by Sarah Pfundstein during August 2012. EAD finding aid completed by Bethany Fiechter on 2019/07/03.


James Cunningham oral history
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.