In Memory of David S. Cunningham Jr. June 24, 1935-November 15, 2017

DEC17cun3David S. Cunningham Jr. lived a varied and accomplished life before representing the 10th district as a Los Angeles City Council member from the years 1973 – 1987.

He began life as the son of David Cunningham  Sr., an ordained minister in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and his wife, Eula Mae, and grew up surrounded by loving siblings Elnora, Nancy and Ronald. 

His father was a leader in the civil rights movement and he was raised with scholarly discipline and home chores. His mother kept him well dressed and gave him a love of hymnal music.  At one point Dave began studying piano and bass fiddle which would eventually lead him to form a band while serving in the Air Force. The band took him travelling to popular venues in Southern California.

In 1954, after completing an Associate of Arts Degree from Stow Teachers College, he served in the United States Naval Air Reserve and later joined the United States Air Force deploying to England, serving as a cartographer.  

In 1960, encouraged by his parents, David immersed himself in Civil Rights activities with the local NAACP and was selected as a delegate to the historic 1960 Democratic National Convention, inspiring him to pursue a later career in politics.  He enrolled at the University of California at Riverside and graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Political Science.  Following completion of a Coro Foundation Fellows Program in Public Affairs in 1963, he moved his family to Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa, as the West Africa Regional Manager for the DuKane Corporation.  War forced the family to leave, and they travelled through Europe before coming back to Los Angeles, where he took a position as Manager of Community Relations with the Hughes Corporation.  In 1968, Dave founded Cunningham, Short, Berryman and Associates providing management consulting services to government and small business entities.  He returned to studies and earned a Master of Arts degree from Occidental College in Urban Studies in 1973.

In 1973 he decided to run to replace Tom Bradley (who endorsed him and remained a close ally) as Councilman of the 10th district.  He prevailed over a large field of contenders including the actor from the Star Trek series, George Takai. 

From the LA Times 

Cunningham “pushed for funding for low and moderate-income housing and created the 10th District Women’s Steering Committee which is still active.”  

“As chairman of a committee focused on housing and community development, Cunningham called on federal housing officials to put thousands of boarded-up homes owned by the government back into use. 

He also used his committee role to encourage minority hiring at investment banks that sought work with the city.”

“Cunningham opposed a citywide push for rent control, believing it would be an impediment to the construction of affordable housing.”

“In the early 1980’s he was a key ally in Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky’s crusade to shut down the Los Angeles Police Departments infamous Public Disorder Intelligence Division, which kept files on civil rights organizations and other activist and civic groups.”

“As a councilman, Cunningham hired John Carlos, a U.S. track star who raised a black-gloved fist on the medal stand at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  

Ostracized because of his protest, Carlos couldn’t find work, so Cunningham hired him as an aid.”

In 1986 he resigned from the council and wrote,
“Someone once said it is better to leave too soon than stay too late, but I truly believe it is better to leave beloved as opposed to belated.”

He went on to join Cranston Securities as Senior Vice President of Public Finance, then from 1988 to 1991 he served as Senior Vice President of Community Housing Equity Corporation.  In 1991 he formed Dave Cunningham and Associates, and since then he served on numerous boards and commissions. In the early 1990s he joined an acting troupe and appeared in the movie “Cb4” with Chris Rock and Ice Cube and the NBC sitcom “227”.

Cunningham married three times. In 1954 to the former Bessie M. Cosey (Tiki), which produced a son, David S. Cunningham III.  In 1960 he married La Fern R. Harris (Fern) and produced two daughters, Leslie and Robyn. In 1977 he married his final wife, Sylvia A. Kapel and this marriage lasted 40 years, producing three children, Amber, Sean and Brian.  




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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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