Fred C. Cunningham Passes Away at Age 97

Fred C. Cunningham, whose service for the city of Beverly Hills spanned more than half a century, passed away on April 18 at the age of 97. Born in Minneapolis, Cunningham served as a US Army Air Corp Lieutenant Colonel in World War II. He served on the USS Intrepid in the Pacific Theater. While on the Intrepid, Fred experienced a variety of naval battles including at Peleliu, Mindanao, Okinawa, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of World War II. He survived three Kamikaze attacks and earned an array of medals and ribbons for his service.

Fred received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Montana, courtesy of the GI Bill, as he was fond of saying. After graduation, he taught Radio Speech and Radio Drama at the University and became the University Sports Information Director. In 1952, he began his long tenure with the city of Beverly Hills. He worked first as an intern for the Administration Officer, then moved to the Public Information office. His last position, which he left in 1993, was Executive Director of Public Affairs. He then volunteered for 10 years more. All together, he served 32 mayors and 60 city council members. 

Fred was one the pioneers in creating Municipal Video programming. On behalf of the city, Fred won countless awards, including Cable Ace and Emmy awards.  He also gave hands-on training to many, many UCLA and USC students. 

So esteemed was Fred, that in 2014 an award was established by the city council in his name: the Fred C. Cunningham Award. The award honors a well-respected city employee.  Fred was its first recipient.

“We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Fred Cunningham,” said Beverly Hills Mayor Dr. Julian Gold. “Fred was an incredible man who served the city and its residents for 50 years and was a trailblazer in the world of government communications. His extraordinary work ethic and resident focused service approach inspired us in 2014 to create the Fred C. Cunningham Award for Distinguished Service. Fred’s incredible legacy will never be forgotten and his love for this city will be cherished forever.”

Fred was a member of the Rotary Club of Beverly Hills since 1990. He embodied the Rotary motto of “Service above Self.” He will be remembered for his jaunty hat, radiant smile and kindness to all.

“Fred was a thoughtful professional who brought honor to the city through his tireless representation.  He was a talented pioneer in government communications.  He was truly a legend,” said his long-time friend and fellow Rotarian, Lillian Raffel.