Oral Histories

Interview of David Cunningham

Member of the Los Angeles City Council. Founder of Cunningham Short Berryman and Associates, a public affairs consulting firm advising government officials and small businesses.
Black Politicians of Los Angeles
Politics and Government
African American History
Biographical Note:
Member of the Los Angeles City Council. Founder of Cunningham Short Berryman and Associates, a public affairs consulting firm advising government officials and small businesses.
Jefferson, Alison R.
Cunningham, David S., Jr.
Persons Present:
Cunningham, Jefferson, and Robyn Charles (videographer).
Place Conducted:
Jefferson's home office in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alison R. Jefferson; Historic Preservation Consultant; Master of Historic Preservation, University of Southern California, 2007; B.A., Pomona College, 1980. Jefferson prepared for the interview by preparing a telephone pre-interview conversation with David Cunningham to obtain written background information (curriculum vitae, etc.) and agreed on an interviewing schedule. She also reviewed the documentation on Black community political development in Los Angeles, and on Cunningham in the dissertation by Christopher Jimenez y West (More Than My Color: Race, Space & Politics in Black Los Angeles, 1940-1968), the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Sentinel newspapers, and internet web portals, including Air Force Week Los Angeles, The History Makers, and others.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Cunningham was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a number of corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
7.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series includes interviews with African Americans who were involved in Los Angeles politics from the 1940s to the present day. In addition to African American politicians, it includes individuals who could speak to the political history and influence of the black community in Los Angeles. The series was funded by a UCLA in L.A. Community Partnerships grant and was a joint effort between the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research and the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.
Cunningham’s childhood in Chicago, Freeport, and Decatur, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri–-Parents' and grandparents' origins and professions-– Environmental descriptions and impressions of places Cunningham grew up-–Description of family life--People who made an impression on Cunningham in his early life--Jobs he held after school during high school–-Influence of his father and mother on his life--Adolescence and early young adulthood, including career interests, friends, and experiences in St. Louis and in the Air Force–-More on his father and mother's influence–-Discussion of father’s activist role in St. Louis, Missouri and Memphis, Tennessee.
Cunningham’s college and early adulthood years in St. Louis, Missouri at Stowe Teacher’s College and in the Air Force–-Move to Riverside, California with Air Force–-Childhood experience in Decatur, Ill.-–Cunningham family values imparted by parents to him and his siblings-– Father’s time in Memphis and his civil rights movement activities and relationship with Al Gore, Sr.-–First wife, Tekie, and son, David III in Riverside and St. Louis--College enrollment at University of California, Riverside–-Second wife, Fern, and their daughters, Leslie and Robin–-Civic activism in Riverside–-CORO Foundation internship in Los Angeles--Experience of living in Nigeria and traveling around West Africa.
More on Cunningham’s experience of living in West Africa--Work at Hughes Aircraft in Los Angeles in community and government relations--Discussion of beginning steps into elected public service opportunities-- Cunningham’s run for California State Senate seat, 31st District, 1971-72--Work of his own management consulting firm, Cunningham, Short, Berryman & Associates–-Black business support program involvement (Small Business Administration & Office of Minority Business Enterprise/Dept. of Commerce)-- Cunningham’s role in Tom Bradley’s 1973 election as mayor of Los Angeles--Cunningham’s City Council run for Tom Bradley’s former seat for the 10th District of Los Angeles and Bradley’s endorsement--Some demographic and geographic information for the 10th City Council District of Los Angeles-–Discussion of Black politicians who emerged as elected leaders in the 1970s--Cunningham staff members who went on to continue public service as elected officials, non-elected public servants and professional political consultants--Cunningham’s accomplishments on the city council in Los Angeles, including federal funds utilization, first time home buyer loan program, and senior citizen program development–-Runs for Yvonne B. Burke’s U.S. House of Representative’s seat-–Current issues in California electoral politics, including term limits and gerrymandering--Emerging Black elected officials supported by multi-racial coalitions in the Inland Empire and San Diego-–Emergence of new American politicians and demographics of the future power structure--Cunningham’s current family, business, and public service endeavors--Thoughts for a young person who might choose a life of public service as an elected official.