Jerry Cunningham

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Cunningham, Jerry P. Jerry P. Cunningham passed away February 4, 2011, 93 years after his birth in Denver, Colorado, on March 30, 1917. During his many years on earth, he became the friend of many and contributed greatly to the welfare of his fellow man. At the time of his death, Jerry was the oldest active member of Alcoholics Anonymous in Dallas, having join-ed the organization in 1953, earning 58 years of continuous sobriety. He was responsible for helping many find sobriety by way of the 12 steps of AA, the last of which says, in part: "we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." Jerry fulfilled this duty in many ways. He served as Commissioner of the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) for over 8 years, with the unique distinction of having been appointed to the post by two Governors: Bill Clem-ents, and Ann Richards. During his time on the Commission, the budget reached $175 million and involved approximately 270 employees providing initiatives to reduce recidivism among 12,000 prison inmates. Less widely known was the fact that Jerry founded and personally funded the upkeep of a residential halfway house for recovering alcoholics, called the Dallas Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center, at 614 S. Harwood St., in downtown Dallas from 1964 until 1988. Such was his generosity of spirit and deed. He never lost his compassion for the penniless, down-and-out skid-row alcoholics, and he dedicated many years to helping people get on their feet and regain their dignity. Jerry was a man of many notable accomplishments during his long career. Although he was the son of the President of the Standard Oil Company of Texas, and matriculated at the University of Colorado, Jerry started at the bottom, becoming an oilfield roughneck as a young man, advancing through every hard job in the oil patch, including that of tool pusher, up through the level of drilling superintendent in 1946. During World War II, he served in an essential industry, and kept the oil flowing for victory. After the war, he joined M.M. McKinley Company as an oilfield firefighter working with Red Adair, and at one point was an instructor on drilling practices at the University of Texas. Throughout his career, Jerry followed the oil and lived in all corners of the State of Texas, as well as the oilfields around Bakersfield, California. He sold drilling mud for many years and rose to the level of executive vice president of an oilfield drilling services firm known as Milchem. Thereafter, he was hired in 1955 by future Texas Governor Bill Clements, founder of Southeastern Drilling Company, later known as SEDCO, which pioneered the technique and technology of offshore drilling, and which became the largest company of its kind in the world at the time. Jerry rose to become President of SED-CO's drilling division. He was a long-time member of the Dallas Petroleum Club, serving as vice president and chairman of all activities. He was a world traveler in the oil business, often being called upon as a speaker or emcee for major industry events because of his humor and entertaining style on the podium. He was among the first business executives to visit the Great Wall of China when relations with that nation began to normalize. He was instrumental in the merger and acquisition of SEDCO by Schlum-berger in 1985, from which company he retired as Director of Industry Affairs, and for which he served as a consultant to Schlumberger until 1989. As a youngster, Jerry grew up in Billings, Montana, moving to Dallas in 1928, where he resided on St John's Street and attended Highland Park High School before enrolling in Texas Country Day School (predecessor of St. Marks School of Texas) and had the distinction of becoming its first graduate. Jerry always revered and admired his father, Arthur James (Casey) Cunningham, and he devotedly provided for the care of his mother, Edna Pierce Cunningham, in her last years. His only sister, Shirley, passed away in 2004, in California. While at the University of Colorado, Jerry was a popular cheerleader, athlete, boxer, and an exceptional tap dancer. His fraternity was Phi Gamma Delta, and his roommate was Byron "Whizzer" White, who later became Justice of the United States Supreme Court. It was while attending the University of Colorado that he first met Helen Jones, whom he married in 1939, and to whom he was married for 45 years until she passed away in 1984. Jerry and Helen were well known on the Dallas social dance club calendar as members of Brookhollow Country Club. Helen, a member of the Dallas Woman's Club and Dallas Garden Club, also became a member of Dallas Dinner Dance. After Helen's death, Jerry was married for 20 years to Marie Lancaster Cunningham, widow of Bill Lancaster, President of ARCO. Marie predeceased Jerry in 2006, but she and Jerry had enjoyed many years of golfing and dancing together as members of the Hills of Lakeway (near Austin), Eldorado Country Club of Indian Wells, California, Northwood Country Club, and various social dance clubs. Upon Marie's death, Jerry became acquainted with and married Gloria Padgett, who survives him. He is also survived by his son, Thomas Vincent Cunningham, his daughter, Kathleen Cunningham and her husband, Randall Mark Willis, Esq. Jerry's youngest daughter, Shirley, was deceased in a car accident in 1974. Jerry is also survived by his grandsons: Douglas Vincent Cunningham (wife Trish) and Robert Pierce Cunningham, who are the sons of Thomas; Jeffrey Allen Miller (wife Rhonda) and Jerry Edgar Miller (wife Anke Seidel), who are the sons of Kathleen; and David Goodenow (wife Ginna) and L.G. Goodenow, who are the sons of Shirley. Jerry's great grandchildren include Brad and Kristin Cunningham, children of Douglas; Sam and Casey Miller, children of Jeffrey; Nicolas Miller, child of grandson Jerry; and Emma Kathleen and Pierce Goodenow, children of David. From 1985 until his death, Jerry's faithful right hand was his SEDCO secretary, Shirley Warren, who assisted him with every aspect of his executive tenure at SEDCO and thereafter. In the later years of his life, Jerry was cared for on a daily basis by a woman of great faith by the name of Sandra Johnson, to whom all members of his family are eternally grateful for her loving care, patience, loyalty, and steadfastness shown to Jerry in his final years. Since 1953, Jerry Cunningham lived his life one day at a time, kept it simple, lived and let live, put first things first, listened and learned, sought serenity, accepted what he could not change, courageously changed what he could, and had the wisdom to know the difference. A memorial service will be held at the Park Cities Presbyterian Church located at 4124 Oak Lawn Avenue in Dallas, on Friday, February 11, 2011, at 1:30 PM. If you wish, in lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the charity of your choice.

Published in Dallas Morning News from Feb. 6 to Feb. 12, 2011
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