April 25, 1904
You could say that Dr. Russell Cunningham wouldn’t have advanced his career without “consumption.”
Born in Lawrence County, Cunningham earned his medical degree from Bellevue Medical College in New York City. After returning to Alabama, he served as surgeon for the state penitentiary in Wetumpka, and later to the Pratt Mines Prison in Pratt City. While there, he documented cases of pneumonia and tuberculosis, and made suggestions that brought down the mortality rate among Pratt City inmates from 18 percent to 3 percent.
Elected as lieutenant governor in 1903, tuberculosis advanced his career again. Gov. William Jelks left the state in 1904 for nearly a year, seeking treatment for tuberculosis in the New Mexico desert. Cunningham was sworn in as acting governor on April 25, 1904, and carried out the duties until Jelks’ return on March 5, 1905.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.