Skip to main content

Cunningham, Paul Harvey



  • Existence: 1890-1961


Lawyer; born in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, son of Robert Harvey and Sarah Jane Cunningham; graduated from the State Normal School, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and from the literary and law departments of the University of Michigan; L.L.D., Sterling College, Kansas, 1954; Fort Sheridan Training Camp, 1917; discharged 1919, first lieutenant, Infantry; former captain, Iowa National Guard; former State representative, Polk County, Iowa; member Westminster U.P. Church, American Legion, Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, Masonic bodies, Odd Fellows, Elks, and various civic organizations; married Gail Fry; three children, Paul Harvey, Jr., Edward Plummer (killed in action on Saipan, 1944) and Sarah Jane; elected to the 77th, 78th, 79th, 80th, 81st, 82nd, 83rd, 84th, and 85th Congresses.

When Cunningham first came to Congress he served on the Veterans Committee, the Territories Committee, and the Roads Committee. Under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 he elected to go on the Public Works Committee where he was Chairman of the Subcommittee on Roads. It was under his leadership that the 1948 Federal Highway Act became law. During Cunningham's service on the Veterans Committee, he assisted in drafting the G. I. Bill of Rights and the National Service Life Insurance Act. He was commended by President Roosevelt for his leadership and, in recognition, the President gave him the first pen he used in signing the G. I. Bill into law.

While a member of the State Legislature during the years 1933 -- 1936 inclusive, Mr. Cunningham obtained the enactment into law of pension systems for teachers, police, and firemen of the City of Des Moines. When he came to Congress, he became interested in Social Security and other retirement systems here and introduced legislation to liberalize them. He was in the forefront in expanding Social Security coverage to approximately 10 million persons during the 83rd Congress.


1890: Born on a farm in Indiana County, near Kent, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Harvey and Sarah Jane Cunningham, June 15, 1890

1911: Graduated from the State Teachers College, Indiana, Pennsylvania

1914: Graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. B.A. degree

1915: Graduated LL.B. from the University of Michigan, Law School, Ann Arbor. Admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan

1917: First Lieutenant of Infantry, Fort Sheridan Training Camp, Fort Sheridan, Illinois, during W.W.I Honorably discharged, 1919

1918: Married Harriet French Plummer, December, 1918

1919: Began law practice in Des Moines, Iowa

1920: Served in the rank of. Captain, Iowa National Guard, 1920--1923

1922: His first wife, Harriet Plummer of Chicago, died

1926: Married Gail Fry, December 26, 1926

1933: Elected a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, 1933 -- 1937

1941: Elected as a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa, 77th through 85th Congresses, 1941 -- 1959

1944: His son, Edward Plummer Cunningham, was killed in action with the Marine Corps on Saipan, WWII

1954: Received LL.D., Sterling College, Kansas

1958: Unsuccessful candidate for re-election to the 86th Congress; resumed his law practice

1961: Died July 16, 1961, at his summer home on Gull Lake, Brainerd, Minnesota

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Paul Harvey Cunningham Papers

Identifier: MsC0107

U.S. Representative from Iowa. Correspondence, newspaper clippings, speeches, news releases, and other documents relating to his public and political life.

Dates: 1940 - 1961