Cunningham, Samuel (1862–1946), stockbroker and Northern Ireland senator, was born 14 October 1862 at Glencairn, Belfast, third son of Josias Cunningham (qv) (1819–95) who founded the stockbroking firm of Josias Cunningham & Co. in 1843, and his wife, Jane Agnes, daughter of James Davis, solicitor, of Belfast. Educated at the RBAI, Belfast Royal Academy, and Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, he entered the office of his father as a young man and eventually became a partner. He later became chairman of the Northern Whig newspaper and of the tobacco firm of Murray Sons & Co. A member of the local board of the Scottish Amicable Life Assurance Society from 1903 and a member of the committee of the Northern Bank from 1906 to 1922, he was also connected with the general board of trustees and managers of the Belfast Savings Bank for more than fifty-two years, and became a trustee in 1913. From 1934 he was a member of the committee of management.
A member of the Ulster Unionist Council since 1912, Cunningham was president of the old West Belfast Unionist Association until the passing of the Redistribution of Seats (Ireland) Act, 1918, and the rearrangement of the parliamentary divisions of Belfast, whereupon he became president of the newly formed Woodvale unionist association, and vice-president of the organisation in the Shankill constituency.
Together with his brother, James Glencairn, Cunningham was heavily involved in gun-running for the UVF in 1913–14. In addition to signing the cheques that financed the 50,000 German rifles that landed at Bangor and Larne in 1914 as part of the anti-home-rule campaign, he arranged to store arms on their arrival in Ulster and provided refuge for Fred Crawford (qv) in April 1914. He was a representative for Ireland on the Treasury's housing committee on finance, which sat in 1919. He was appointed to the privy council of Ireland (21 April 1920) and to the privy council of Northern Ireland (20 April 1923) and was president of both the Ulster Liberal Unionist Association and the Ulster Reform Club. He was a member of the first NI senate and remained a senator until his retirement in April 1945, and during 1923–5 held the position of deputy speaker.
Prominent in masonic circles, Cunningham was a member of masonic lodge no. 243. He was also a past chairman of both Lagan Valley Preceptory and Prince Masons, and a foundation member of both RAC 207 and Press Lodge 432. A devoted and lifelong member of Rosemary St. presbyterian church, he served as honorary treasurer of the congregation (1913–43) and convener of the general assembly's board of finance (1918–30). He also had a distinguished record of public and philanthropic service and was a life governor of the Royal Victoria Hospital, as well as a generous supporter of various benevolent institutions and wartime charities.
A member of both the Union and Reform Clubs in Belfast and the Constitutional Club in London, Cunningham was also a member of Belfast Naturalists, Field Club and lived to be the oldest member of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society; his other pastimes included gardening and family history. He died 23 August 1946 at his residence at Fernhill, Glencairn Road, Belfast, leaving a personal estate of £90,818.
He married (9 March 1898) Janet Muir Knox (d. 8 September 1941), eldest daughter of Dunlop McCosh, solicitor of Dalry, Ayrshire and his wife, Janet, youngest daughter of James Knox, thread manufacturer of Riverside, Kilbirnie, Ayrshire. He was survived by four sons: Josias, head of the stockbroking firm of Josias Cunningham & Co.; Dunlop McCosh Cunningham, managing director of Murray Sons & Co. Ltd; Lt-col. James Glencairn Cunningham (qv), member of the NI senate (1957–65, 1967–72), managing director of the Northern Whig Ltd and director of Glencairn Trust Ltd and the Commercial Insurance Company of Ireland; and Samuel Knox Cunningham (qv), barrister-at-law and Unionist MP for Antrim South at Westminster, 1955–70.