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Edgar V. Cunningham
*Edgar V. Cunningham, Sr. was born on this date in 1910. He was an early youth member of the Boy Scouts of America who, for several years, was believed to be the first Black Eagle Scout. Background.
Cunningham was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was a member of Troop 12 in Waterloo, Iowa in what was then Wapsipinicon Area Council. Troop 12 was a "colored troop" formed in 1925 during the period when Scout units were segregated and, with Troop 9, was one of the two colored troops in Waterloo formed by James Lincoln Page.
Cunningham was one of the first Eagle Scouts in either of the Waterloo colored troops to earn Eagle Scout on June 8, 1926. Cunningham married Susie Ann Rockett on September 14, 1931, in Galena, Illinois. They had five children, eighteen grandchildren, and seventeen great-grandchildren.
Cunningham received a hand-written letter from President Calvin Coolidge referring to him as the first Black Eagle Scout, and his Scoutmaster, James Lincoln Page, received a presidential citation for guiding Cunningham through that process. After Cunningham died in 1980, the Winnebago Council (the successor to the Wapsipinicon Area Council) made inquiries to the National Council of the BSA to determine if he was indeed the first black Eagle Scout. Since Cunningham had earned Eagle Scout fourteen years after the first Eagle Scout was awarded and National did not track ethnicity, at that time there was no way to validate the claim.
Recent scholarship has shown that Hamilton Bradley of Rome, New York became an Eagle Scout before 1920, making Bradley the earliest known black Eagle Scout. Edgar V. Cunningham, Sr. died on February 27, 1980.