LifeTimeline

Austin Cunningham

    • SEP 05

      Born at high noon

    1914
    • Dad with his mother Clotilde Mattingly Cunningham

    1915
    • Boyhood

    1918
    • A beloved father dies too early

    1926
    • Growing up in "genteel poverty," fatherless

    1927
    • APR

      Dad becomes a clerk with the U.S. Supreme Court

    • JUN

      "Who is that young Byron?"

    1928
    • Teen Austin starts his autograph collection

    1929
    • APR

      Dad makes friends among the court pages

    1930
    • Dad writes newly elected FDR, seeking autograph

    1932
    • Elegant Austin

    1933
    • Dad was an early fingerprint clerk for Hoover's FBI

    1937
    • Earns law degree, University of Virginia

    1939
    • Dad enlists in the Army

    1942
    • Brother Paul Briscoe Cunningham dies in military test flight

    1943
    • DEC 31

      Dad meets his wife, but doesn't immediately realize it

    1944
    • Brother Streit Cunningham dies in action in Germany

    1945
    • JAN

      Marries Grace Jacqueline Coder Mobley

    1946
    • The Great Generation

    • Life is Good

    1947
    • MAY 09

      Kathryn born

    1948
    • Dad goes to work for Magnavox

    1950
    • MAR

      Paul Streit Cunningham born

    1953
    • APR

      Baby Paul dies unexpectedly

    1954
    • NOV

      The move to New Orleans

    1955
    • APR 17

      Company man with time for family

    1956
    • 304 Melrose Avenue, Kenilworth, Illinois

    1959
    • SEP 28

      Austin Cunningham III born

    1962
    • Oh Gosh, Dad loved Barry Goldwater

    1964
    • The move back south

    1974
    • Called to the White House for acknowledgement of successful jobs program

    1984
    • Family Reunion

    1990
    • Mom has major stroke, dies in January

    2002
    • The Two Austins

    2004
    • Senior Years: Getting to Know the Grandsons

    2007
    • JAN 26

      Dies in his own bed, surrounded by loving family: "We didn't miss much."

    2009
  • Born at high noon

    The doctor told my grandmother that there was no doubting the time of Dad's birth. The lunch horn was blowing loudly at a nearby plant in Washington, DC, just as Dad entered our universe. He was taken home to an apartment building off Columbia Road, next door to a firehouse where the fire wagons were still horse drawn.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Dad with his mother Clotilde Mattingly Cunningham

    Washington, District of Columbia
    Dad's father was a newsman working as Washington D.C. correspondent for a San Angelo, Texas, paper (at age 19, he'd traveled to Alaska to report from there). Dad's mom, as you can see, was incredibly elegant and beautiful, a fan of the formalities of the Victorian period.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Boyhood

    Washington, District of Columbia
    Here he is on the porch of the house on MacComb Street, where his mother and father ran a Christian Science school for youth. When asked what he was being taught in Sunday school, Dad proudly announced "We're learning how they put Moses in the rhubarb to protect him from the Germans."

    Like a lot of first borns, he initially was lonely. His imaginary friends Mr. and Mrs. Him-Ham-Ho lived in the mailbox.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • A beloved father dies too early

    Washington, District of Columbia
    Surrounded by family, after years of Christian Science prayer and unsuccessful tuberculosis treatment, Dad's father (also named Austin Cunningham) dies in a narrow townhome on Park Road in Washington, DC. Dad remembers being 12 years old, descending the stairs in the middle of the night his father died, hearing the cries of his mother and grandmother collapsed in grief at his father's bedside.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Growing up in "genteel poverty," fatherless

    Washington, District of Columbia
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Dad becomes a clerk with the U.S. Supreme Court

    Washington, District of Columbia
    A society columnist for the Washington Post told former president and U.S. Supreme Court justice William Howard Taft that a young Washington DC family was floundering due to the death of the head of the house, a newspaper man who, once stricken with TB had gone on to the more relaxing work of editing the newsletters of the National Red Cross. Five children remained, and an elegant widow, a staunch practitioner of Christ Science. Taft's staff brought my Dad into the court, at age fifteen, to work as a clerk. Washington DC was that small a town back then, and things just happened this way. Of course, Supreme Court paper running, for a boy still missing his dad, was transformative. It set my father up to appreciate greatness, and believe that anyone could make it.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • "Who is that young Byron?"

    Washington , District of Columbia
    Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (who as a youth had met Lincoln) actually spotted our handsome father from across the room and asked "Who is that young Byron?" When instructed to deliver papers to Holmes's Connecticut Avenue apartment, the great old man took Dad to a cabinet that housed all his Civil War sabers! Yes, this sort of thing happened in 1928-29. Justice Holmes didn't die until 1935.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • 2

    Teen Austin starts his autograph collection

    Washington, District of Columbia
    Unfortunately, Dad makes a hugely important strategic mistake in the way he preserved his precious political celebrity autographs: He cut all the signatures off the letterhead they came on, making this impressive collection, absolutely worthless (to everyone but us).
    By Amy Cunningham
  • 2

    Dad makes friends among the court pages

    Washington, District of Columbia
    They were all fifteen and sixteen years old, and they carried court documents to the justices' homes on street cars and buses.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Dad writes newly elected FDR, seeking autograph

    Washington, District of Columbia
    Well, if you're an 18-year-old kid with a pretty good autograph collection, why not go all the way to the top? Click on the pdf form to the right to see Dad's most excellent December 1932 letter to the president elect.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Elegant Austin

    Washington, District of Columbia
    Dressed to the nines, he attended Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inaugural with his sister Jane.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Dad was an early fingerprint clerk for Hoover's FBI

    Washington, District of Columbia
    At age 23, Dad got a hot job as an FBI fingerprint clerk. Among the stories: Apparently, an FBI agent once barked at him for leaving a briefcase of important documents outside the door of a men's room, and J. Edgar himself (for some some darned reason) was fond of Dad and on a first name basis with him!
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Earns law degree, University of Virginia

    Charlottesville , Virginia
    Here's Dad, front and center, on the steps of Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda, with the rest of his law school class. Mortimer Caplan, later head of the IRS, became a good friend at this time.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Dad enlists in the Army

    Washington , District of Columbia
    In an historic effort to avoid wearing the white Naval bell bottoms (which Dad detested), our father slipped out of the Navy line and into the Army queue, wearing only his boxer shorts, and holding his paperwork. His weak eyesight in far distances had disqualified him from the Army Air Corps. And he was 28 years old, pretty ancient in those times to be considering military service. Faced with a psychiatrist in charge of intake who said, "Well, it says here you have a law degree from the University of Virginia, I guess you're all right," Dad said, "I don't think that necessarily follows at all." "Well, I do," the good doctor said smugly, slapping Dad's papers on the desk. Dad rose to the level of First Lt. and later worked for the War Production Board, getting American companies to manufacture items for the escalating military efforts.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • 2

    Brother Paul Briscoe Cunningham dies in military test flight

    Florida
    Dad's youngest brother Paul had left Princeton and enlisted in the Army Air Corps soon after Pearl Harbor. He died in Florida, navigating a military test plane at high altitudes, back in the days of the first sonic booms.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Dad meets his wife, but doesn't immediately realize it

    Washington, District of Columbia
    At a New Years party at the Kennedy Warren building on Connecticut Avenue, Mom (wearing tight white sweater) asks Dad if he "curls his eyelashes up at night." (We guess you had to be there.) Dad takes his date home at 12:15 a.m., returns to the party to be with mom. The rest is history...sort of. They were madly in love, but were unsure of their future together for several more years. Mom, who initially worked as a secretary on the night shift over at the Australian Embassy, later said, "Because of the war, none of us knew if we'd live or die."
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Brother Streit Cunningham dies in action in Germany

    Germany
    Dad's second (and last) brother Streit died April 12th, 1945 (three weeks before the war against the Germans ended) trying to take the Ruhr Pocket in Germany. He was a First Lieutenant, Company E, 18th Infantry Regiment, "Fighting First" Infantry Division, European Theater of Operation, working under orders numbered 150. Natively athletic, and having played tackle on the football team at Lehigh, it always made sense to the family that Streit was shot standing up, throwing grenades into a nest of Nazi soldiers. He was awarded the Silver Star medal of honor (after his death) for heroism.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • 2

    Marries Grace Jacqueline Coder Mobley

    Washington, District of Columbia
    The war was over, and Dad must have been grieving the deaths of his brothers Paul and Streit. Mom issued the old ultimatum, and they decided to marry. She wore a pale pink suit and $40 (expensive) pumps for the civil ceremony. Dad later told us, "I took her to Baltimore on the train to meet my aunt and uncle, and I sat there staring at her gazing out the train window, and I was suddenly swept up by the feeling that I'd married a total stranger."
    By Amy Cunningham
  • The Great Generation

    New York, New York
    As you can see, they were a glamorous couple. Here they are at a nightclub in New York City, during the days when they rented an apartment in Greenwich Village. Dad looks a little nervous here. She was a looker!
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Life is Good

    Mexico
    Life is good for a moment, and the fish were plentiful.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Kathryn born

    New York, New York
    Dad makes a banner to welcome mom and baby home.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • 3

    Dad goes to work for Magnavox

    Chicago, Illinois
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Paul Streit Cunningham born

    Chicago, Illinois
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Baby Paul dies unexpectedly

    Chicago, Illinois
    A rare form of meningitis develops from an ear infection. The baby was thirteen months old and perfectly healthy one day, then gravely ill the next.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • The move to New Orleans

    New Orleans, Louisiana
    New job down south, and enough good reasons to catch some jazz. Dad loved Al Hurt. Here is the house they rented.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Company man with time for family

    Chicago, Illinois
    I think we grew up thinking that Dad didn't enjoy young children, but the photographs we're reviewing paint a radically different picture. Dad apparently knew how to have fun with babies. This is Amy's first birthday party.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • 304 Melrose Avenue, Kenilworth, Illinois

    Kenilworth , Illinois
    Mom called it "the worst house we ever lived in," which is odd, since it's the only home we owned that held landmarked, architectural significance. Endearingly, she just didn't "get it," and tried to repress the Arts and Crafts flavor of this great old structure, designed by George Maher, who at one time worked as a draftsman for Frank Lloyd Wright. Mom didn't like the stained hardwood floors. This was the 1960s, man. She wanted beige carpet! Her other complaint: there wasn't a good closet in the whole joint. So much for high art.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Austin Cunningham III born

    Chicago, Illinois
    A son rounds out the family.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Oh Gosh, Dad loved Barry Goldwater

    Kenilworth, Illinois
    By Amy Cunningham
  • The move back south

    Orangeburg, South Carolina
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Called to the White House for acknowledgement of successful jobs program

    Washington, District of Columbia
    Thanks to Dad's success with the Targeted Jobs Tax Credit at his Burger King (his retirement project) in Orangeburg, Dad got to finally meet President Ronald Reagan in the flesh! A red letter day for him.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Family Reunion

    Orangeburg, South Carolina
    Everybody together in Orangeburg.
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Mom has major stroke, dies in January

    Orangeburg, South Carolina
    By Amy Cunningham
  • The Two Austins

    Orangeburg, South Carolina
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Senior Years: Getting to Know the Grandsons

    Orangeburg, South Carolina
    By Amy Cunningham
  • Dies in his own bed, surrounded by loving family: "We didn't miss much."

    Orangeburg, South Carolina
    At age 94, he was ready to go and strongly felt that longevity was over-rated. Greatly inconvenienced by numerous mobility issues and unable to exercise on his treadmill or write, he convinced his enlightened internist to dismiss him to hospice. "This isn't going fast enough. I love you and I've said all my goodbyes," he told us some days after that, just before asking my sister Kathryn to remove all the heart medication from his pill box. Two days later, on the morning of Barack Obama's first inauguration, Kathryn and Austin III were stalwartly holding fort in Orangeburg with Dad while Amy gallivanted off to Washington D.C. with husband and kids to hear the inaugural speech. "Oh Dad, I'm in Washington with the boys and the sun is coming up and we're at the base of the Washington monument. It's so beautiful here," Amy said. "Isn't that grand? Isn't that wonderful." Dad said. He had a major stroke that afternoon, hospice team and Kathryn put him to bed. He died about a week later, happily we can only hope, and definitely on his own terms.
    By Amy Cunningham