David Cunningham, businessman, lobbyist and former three-term L.A. City Councilman who succeeded Mayor Tom Bradley in representing the tenth district and was known as one of the most experienced city officials in bond financing, died on Wednesday, November 15, surrounded by family, at Kaiser West Los Angeles. He was 82.
Voted in as Councilman with the election of Bradley in 1973, Cunningham served the district until 1987, pioneering the use of government grants to restore public buildings and helping to create the Mayor's Office of Small Business Assistance. An outspoken advocate, Cunningham once pressed for the city to cut funding to the Los Angeles Unified School District until more minority students received better educational opportunities. Before his time on matters concerning the environment, he once called for a ban on oil drilling in Santa Monica Bay.
“Dave Cunningham served his community with passion and dedication — and never lost sight of why the people of the 10th District elected him to succeed Tom Bradley, and sent him to City Hall to represent them for more than a decade: to keep up the fight for equal justice, equal access, and equality in services,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement. “His strong advocacy made history in our city, and my thoughts today are with the councilmember’s family and all who loved and admired him”.
Born in Chicago, David S. Cunningham received an aassociate's degree from Stowe’s Teachers College in St. Louis and served in the Air Force as a cartographer until 1960. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science and economics from the University of California Riverside before attending Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. After a two-year stint in Lagos, Nigeria as regional manager for the DuKane Corporation,Cunningham returned to the states and co-founded theLos Angeles consulting firm of Cunningham Short and Associates, where he specialized in governmental and economic problems before his election to the City Council.
Passionate about issues he was famed as well for his nose-to-nose confrontations with other members of the council, at one point being recommended for censure after calling a fellow councilman, “the greatest racist in the world”. In his retirement letter, he said he had been"privileged to serve with an interesting group of dedicated, committed and sometimes overly contentious colleagues."
Cunningham served as state chairman of the California Delegation to the Democratic National Committee in 1976. In 1986, Cunningham joined Cranston/Prescott Investment Bankers as senior vice president of public finance. He served as senior vice president of Community Housing Equity Corporation from 1988 to 1991, while forming Dave Cunningham and Associates, a public affairs consultant firm.
Married three times, Cunningham was the father of six. His eldest son and namesake, David S. Cunningham III is an Los Angeles Superior Court judge and former police commissioner.6