Hugh Wilson Cunningham, Jr., beloved patriarch, friend and mentor to many departed this life peacefully with family by his side on Friday, February 27, 2015. He was born on September 11, 1921 in Eliasville, Texas.
Hugh completed a bachelor degree from Trinity University in Texas (1942) concurrent with working as an editor at the Waxahachie Daily Life newspaper, followed by WWII in which he completed training at the US Naval Academy and served as communication officer aboard a US Navy destroyer escort in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. After the war he obtained a masters degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. He then joined the faculty and was head of public relations at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas until 1953 when he became editor of the Bryan Daily Eagle in Texas.
In 1955, he was recruited by Rae Weimer to join the budding School of Journalism at the University of Florida, where Weimer’s goal was to build the College through experience by hiring practicing journalists. As a professor at the University Hugh led unique programs providing practical and hands-on experience for UF Journalism students at the Gainesville Sun and St. Petersburg Times, and graduates he mentored became recognized journalists. During part of his 35 years at UF he served as Director of Communications. On his 80th birthday, the University of Florida established the Hugh W. Cunningham Professorship of Journalism Excellence with contributions from former students and others.
Hugh was a man of firm faith. He was on the organizing committee of the Presbyterian Church in America, co-founder with Pierre Vidal of Faith Presbyterian Church in Gainesville, and later an elder at Community Presbyterian Church in McIntosh. Hugh “filled the pulpit” at various area churches on an as-needed basis including 5 years at Mikesville Presbyterian Church.
Hugh was a tireless man who dedicated himself to family, church, journalism, and adventurous travels. He will be remembered by those who knew him as a great teacher and enthusiast for just about any topic of conversation.
Hugh is predeceased by his wife of 57 years Eleanor Hendrix Cunningham, daughter Kay Puder and grandson Casey Puder of Gainesville, as well as by his brother William A. Cunningham of Granbury Texas. He is survived by sons Rob ( and Amy) and Chuck (and Aries); by granddaughters Allison (Amador), Wendy, and Alyx; by three great-granddaughters; and by Nicole Haynes, loving caregiver to him, his wife and their daughter for the past 8 years.
A memorial service will be held at Faith Presbyterian Church (5916 NW 39th Avenue Gainesville, FL 32606) on Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 4:00 PM . In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Community Presbyterian Church (20098 North US Highway 441 P.O. Box 616 McIntosh, FL 32664) or to Faith Presbyterian Church. Interment will occur a day prior to the memorial service and will be private to family. Arrangements are in the care of Forest Meadows Funeral Home.