D A Cunningham Biography & Facts
Randall Harold "Duke" Cunningham (born December 8, 1941) is a former American politician, decorated Vietnam War veteran, fighter ace, and ex-felon. Cunningham served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California's 50th district from 1991 to 2005, and subsequently served eight years in prison for accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. He resigned from Congress in 2005 after having pled guilty to bribery, fraud, and tax evasion in a widely publicized trial.
Prior to his political career, Cunningham was an officer and pilot in the U.S. Navy for 20 years. Following the Vietnam War, during which he became the U.S. Navy's only pilot ace of that war, Cunningham became an instructor at the U.S. Navy's Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN, and commanding officer of Fighter Squadron 126 (VF-126), a shore-based adversary squadron at NAS Miramar, California.Cunningham resigned from the House on November 28, 2005, after pleading guilty to accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes and under-reporting his taxable income for 2004. He pleaded guilty to federal charges of tax evasion, and conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, and wire fraud. He was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison and was ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution.On June 4, 2013, Cunningham completed his prison sentence; he now lives in Arkansas. On January 20, 2021, Cunningham was granted a conditional pardon by President Donald Trump.
Cunningham was born in Los Angeles, California, to Randall and Lela Cunningham on December 8, 1941, one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. His father was a truck driver for Union Oil at the time. Around 1945, the family moved to Fresno, where Cunningham's father purchased a gas station. In 1953 they moved to rural Shelbina, Missouri, where his parents purchased and managed the five-and-dime Cunningham Variety Store.
Cunningham married Susan Albrecht in 1965; they had met in college. They adopted a son together. Susan Cunningham filed for divorce and a restraining order in January 1973, based on her claims of emotional abuse, and the divorce was granted eight months later. Cunningham later said that his life hit "rock-bottom" in that year.In 1973, he met Dan McKinnon, a publisher and son of former Congressman Clinton D. McKinnon, who encouraged him to turn his life around. Cunningham married his second wife, Nancy, in 1974. They have been separated since July 2005 and have two daughters.
Education and military service
Cunningham graduated from Shelbina High School in 1959. He attended Kirksville Teacher's College for one year before transferring to the University of Missouri in Columbia. Cunningham graduated with a bachelor's degree in education and physical education in 1964; he obtained his M.A. in education the following year. He was hired as a physical education teacher and swimming coach at Hinsdale Central High School, where he stayed for one year. Two members of his swim team competed in the 1968 Olympics, where they earned a gold and a silver medal.Cunningham joined the United States Navy in 1967. During his service, Cunningham and his Navigator/Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) "Irish" Driscoll became the only Navy aces in the Vietnam War, flying an F-4 Phantom II from aboard aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64). He and Driscoll recorded five aerial victories against North Vietnamese MiG-21 and MiG-17 aircraft between January and May 1972, including three kills in one flight (earning them the Navy Cross).
In the final engagement, Cunningham downed a MiG-17, which was supposedly piloted by "Colonel Toon", a mythical North Vietnam Air Force fighter ace loosely based on a North Vietnamese pilot from the 921st Fighter Regiment named Nguyen Van Coc. It was later revealed by historians that there was no such Colonel Toon, and that the story was fabricated by Cunningham himself. Van Coc retired from the Vietnamese People’s Air Force in 2002.While returning to the carrier after the final shoot-down, Cunningham and Driscoll were forced to eject from their F-4 over water near Nam Dinh, but they were rescued by Navy helicopter.After returning to the US from Vietnam in 1972, Cunningham became an instructor at the US Navy's Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego. He was reportedly nearly court-martialed for allegedly breaking into his commanding officer's office to compare his records and fitness reports with those of his colleagues — a charge denied by Cunningham but supported by two of his superior officers at the time.
Cunningham served tours with VF-154, United States Seventh Fleet, and as executive officer/commanding officer of the shore-based adversary squadron VF-126. In 1985, Cunningham earned an MBA from National University. In 1987, he was featured on the PBS broadcast of the NOVA special "Top Gun And Beyond", during which he recounted his engagement with the North Vietnamese fighter pilot thought to be "Colonel Toon".
He retired from the Navy with the final rank of commander in 1987, settling in Del Mar, a suburb of San Diego. Cunningham became nationally known as a CNN commentator on naval aircraft in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War.
Cunningham's visibility as a CNN commentator led several Republican leaders to approach him about running in what was then the 44th District, one of four congressional districts that divided San Diego. The district had been held for eight years by Democrat Jim Bates, and was considered the most Democratic district in the San Diego area. However, Bates was bogged down in a scandal involving charges of sexual harassment. Cunningham won the Republican nomination in 1990 and hammered Bates about the scandal, promising to be "a congressman we can be proud of." He won by just one percentage point, giving Republicans full representation of the San Diego area for only the second time since the city was split into two districts after the 1960 census.
Cunningham's status as a Vietnam war hero made him a sought-after source, by colleagues and the media, in the debate on whether to use military force against Iraq in the lead up to the first Gulf War. Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan, longtime chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that Cunningham had considerable "drawing power" and was treated as a celebrity by his fellow Republicans.After the 1990 census, redistricting renumbered the 44th District as the 51st and created the 50th District, splitting off a significant portion of San Diego County. At the same time, the 51st added several areas of heavily Republican North San Diego County. The new district included the home of Bill Lowery, a fellow Republican who had represented most of the other side of San Diego for the past 12 years. They faced one another in the Republican primary. Despite Lowery's seniority, his involvement in the House banking sca.... Discover the D A Cunningham popular books. Find the top 100 most popular D A Cunningham books.