JAMES V., Sr.
Passed away on March 28, 2014, at the age of 91, surrounded by his loving family. He was predeceased in 2010 by his wife, Rita (Quinn) Cunningham, whom he married in 1948. Together they were blessed with ten children. Jim was born in Chicago, IL in 1923 to James and Margaret (Carey) Cunningham. In 1944, joined the U.S. Navy during WW II where he served as a Supply/Payroll Officer on the DD-877, USS Perkins, which entered Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered. Before serving in the Navy, Jim earned both an undergraduate and graduate degree from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. In 1969, he completed a Ph.D from the University of Pittsburgh. After the war, Jim served as executive director of the Chicago-based Hyde Park-Kennwood Community Conference until he and Rita moved to Pittsburgh in 1959 with their then eight children. Two more children were born after the move to Pittsburgh. A total of 49 years was spent raising their large family at their home on Wallingford St. in Oakland/Shadyside. Jim's first job in Pittsburgh was with ACTION-Housing, Inc., where he helped pioneer an "urban extension" approach to community organizing and became actively involved in many local neighborhood development initiatives. Jim's talent and drive were directed to his passion for community organizing in Pittsburgh neighborhoods throughout the 1960s and didn't stop until shortly before his death. He was instrumental in forming the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance which advocated for local citizens in Homewood, East Liberty, Oakland, and Shadyside. This passion led Jim to a 40-plus year career as a professor teaching and writing about community organization at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Social Work. While there, he helped create an innovative master's program built on 50 percent time in field experience and 50 percent in academic studies, which drew a steady stream of students from the U.S. and abroad. Jim also published four books on urban neighborhood development and contributed to several others over his lifetime. In 2006, with his support, the School of Social Work established a Community Practice Award Fund that makes an annual award to a deserving student. With a lifetime interest in politics instilled by his father, Jim served as the Democratic Party Ward Chairman of Pittsburgh's 7th Ward (Shadyside) for 15 years in the 70s and 80s and ran for Pittsburgh City Council in 1971. In addition, he was the Executive Director of the City of Pittsburgh Home Rule Government Study Commission that led to the adoption of the City Home Rule Charter in 1974. Always feeling a strong tie to his Irish heritage, Jim built a partnership with University College Dublin and invited several Irish students to live in his expansive home while they worked on graduate studies at Pitt. Throughout his life, Jim continued to give strong support for equal rights for all citizens. During the Civil Rights movement of the 60's, Jim had the honor of marching with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama. He was an active founding member of the Race and Reconciliation Dialogue group of St. Paul's Cathedral parish and an active volunteer with the Living Wage Campaign for the Pittsburgh region. He is survived by his two daughters, Anne Moore (Denis) and Mary Gilman (Max); and eight sons, James, Jr., Mark (Annaleta), Harry (Barbara), Steve, David (Barbara), Paul (Debbie), Patrick (Lori), and John (Toni). He leaves 21 grandchildren, ranging in age from 1 yr. old Leah to 42 yr. old David (Bobbie) in California; seven-plus great-grandchildren; his sister-in-law, Patricia Cunningham of Albuquerque, NM; and many nieces and nephews. Jim was predeceased by his brother, William (Bob) Cunningham; and sister, Mary Dean Wildman. For the past two years, Jim lived in assisted living at St. Barnabas in Gibsonia, PA. He missed his friends in the Oakland area and his apartment overlooking St. Paul's Cathedral. He followed all the tenets of his Catholic faith and lived his life in simplicity and forgiveness. Friends will be received at JOHN A. FREYVOGEL SONS, INC., 4900 Centre Avenue at Devonshire Street, Monday, March 31, 2014, 6-8 p.m. and Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Funeral Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Mass of Christian Burial, St. Paul Cathedral 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Jim's name to the Race and Reconciliation Dialogue Group, St. Paul's Cathedral, 108 N. Dithridge St., Pittsburgh, PA 15213 or Birthright of Pittsburgh, Omega Building, Suite 200, 160 N. Craig St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. "I've become very committed to diversity and the reduction of racism, one of the really negative things in the world. Racism truly limits us as human beings." James V. Cunningham
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Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Mar. 30 to Apr. 1, 2014