George Y. Cunningham, Founder

George Y. Cunningham was born July 26, 1899 in Savannah, Tennessee

He joined the U.S. Navy in 1917 was a Marksman and saw action in the Atlantic as a Gunner's Mate on the USS Fanning, a Destroyer. After World War I, George managed the general store on Sun Up Plantation in Northeast Arkansas. In the early 1920's he settled in Black Oak, Arkansas working for Ritter and Bailey Mercantile Company. He married Zepha Rogers, a school teacher from Jonesboro, Arkansas: they had three children, Billy, Sarah and Bobby.

When the United States joined the allied forces in World War II, George signed up again, this time as a Chief Petty Officer, one of the Navy's highest ranking non-commissioned officers in the newly formed Seabees (Navy Corps of Engineers).

After World War II, he opened Cunningham's General Merchandise Store in Black Oak; the first in town to use shopping carts. He was a big coffee drinker and had it packaged and sold under the name "Cunningham's Lovely." On Saturday nights he would show a movie on an outdoor screen on a vacant lot he owned which was directly across the street from the store. Farmers and families could come into town, see a free show, and do their shopping at Cunningham's.

He loved Black Oak and served on the School Board, was a Boy Scout Leader, and was a charter member of Black Oak Methodist Church as well as other activities. He was always eager to help, he would even help the local people write letters when they needed them to be typed as he had one of the only typewriters in town.

George was an avid outdoorsman. He loved hunting and fishing the great sportsman 's paradise of Northern Arkansas. He was well known in Northeast Arkansas for his business expertise, public speaking ability, and auctioneering. In 1947, in addition to running the general store business, George saw a market for auction services so he began auctioning farms, equipment, and livestock for the people in the surrounding area.

And so the Cunningham Family business, which we proudly carry on, was born!

George Y. Cunningham died in Black Oak on November 22, 1958 while doing one of the things he loved most, competitive skeet shooting.

Our first newspaper ad
March 28, 1947