Coach Cunningham died Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012, at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
Born May 8, 1936, in Franklin, N.C., he was a son of the late Harry L. and Louise Culver Cunningham. In addition to his parents, he was also preceded in death by a brother, Edwin Cunningham; brothers-in-law, Weyman Griffin, B.F. Hill and Bobby Cochran; and father-in-law and mother-in-law, Avery and Carrenia Bonds.
Coach Cunningham attended Fellowship Church, was a former deacon of Baldwin Baptist Church and was Sunday School superintendent for 21 years. He was also a U.S. Army Reserve veteran.
In September 1959, Coach Cunningham began his 33-year teaching career at Hazel Grove Elementary School. Soon he began coaching eighth-grade football at Hazel Grove and “B” team at South Habersham. He coached for two years at Hazel Grove and five years at Baldwin Elementary while continuing to coach “B” team at South Habersham. In the summer of 1968, Coach Cunningham was appointed head coach of the South Habersham Rebels following the death of Head Coach Gene Alexander. The next year he became the athletic director and ninth-grade football and basketball coach for South Habersham Jr. High School. In 1990, the ninth grade was moved to Habersham Central where, for the next two years, he coached the Lady Raiders to a state play-off spot. Their record was 22-6.
During his 33-year coaching tenure, Coach Cunningham’s record includes: football, 156 victories, 70 losses, and nine ties; basketball, 470 wins and 190 losses. He was honored with Teacher of the Year in 1985-86, Who’s Who Among American Teachers in 1990, and was inducted into the Habersham County Football Ring of Honor in April 2001. In 1993, Coach Cunningham retired from Habersham Central High School following his long and distinguished career.
In 2011, he came out of retirement to coach his last winning football season for South Habersham Middle School. He then enjoyed his cattle farm and spending time with his family and friends.
Survivors include his wife of 34 years, Faye Bonds Cunningham; son and daughter-in-law, Stuart and Luanne Cunningham of Cornelia; daughters and sons-in-law, Celeste and Bryan Jarrard of Cornelia and Tera and Billy Sellers of Cornelia; sisters-in-law, Lucy Cunningham of Monterey, Calif., Claudette Griffin of Hiawassee; sisters and brothers-in-law, Barbrann and Frank Gordon of Gillsville and Joan and L.C. Parks of Lula; nine grandchildren, Kenyon and Michelle Jarrard, Lindy Cunningham, Lauren Cunningham, Jessica Sellers, Coleman Cunningham, Carley Jarrard, Talia and Tarin Westbrook.
The family will receive friends at the funeral home from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Coach Sammy Cunningham Scholarship Fund at Traditions Bank, c/o Keith Hulsey, P.O. Box 787, Cornelia, GA 30531.
An online guest register is available and may be viewed at mcgaheegriffinandstewart.com.
McGahee-Griffin & Stewart Funeral Home of Cornelia is in charge of arrangements.
The Northeast Georgian
January 20, 2012