Justin Hamilton, right, leads special music with the University of Montevallo Gospel Choir during Dr. Earl Cunningham's birthday Oct. 26. (Reporter photo/Christine Boatwright)

Archived Story

Cunningham turns 81

Published 2:15pm Monday, October 29, 2012

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – One of Montevallo’s longtime residents celebrated his 81st birthday with a program at Parnell Memorial Library Oct. 26.

Dr. Earl Cunningham is a “man who deserves to be honored,” said Denise Jones, who served as the mistress of ceremonies for the celebration. Cunningham and his friends hold the party each year.

In addition to the community-wide birthday party every year, Cunningham, a former Shelby County commissioner, donates money for University of Montevallo scholarships. Three seniors from Shelby, Chilton and Bibb counties in the university’s Upward Bound program qualify for the $500 scholarships. The recipients have a 100 percent graduation rate.

Mayor Ben McCrory said Cunningham “embraces the whole community.”

“It’s been such a great pleasure to have been his friend and see all that he’s done,” McCrory said. “He’s just driven to do good things.”

Justin Hamilton, a May 2010 graduate of the University of Montevallo, directed UM Gospel Choir members through special music during the party.

“Mr. Cunningham, you feeling loved?” Hamilton asked.

Cunningham responded with his typical thumbs up and clasped hands.

Friends and relatives spoke of Cunningham’s contributions to the Montevallo community.

Cunningham earned a Bronze Star after serving in Vietnam in the U.S. Army, according to Luke Marshall.

“He helped save quite a number of men assigned to him in combat,” Marshall said. “He’s always so even-handed and easy to deal with and talk with.”

Jolinda Underwood called Cunningham an “awesome man of God.”

“I have always seen him be a man of the community,” she said.

American Village Founder and CEO Tom Walker was the event’s keynote speaker.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Dr. Earl Cunningham Scholarship Fund.

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