Cover photo for John William Cunningham's Obituary
John William Cunningham Profile Photo

John William Cunningham

October 15, 1930 — January 18, 2024

Aiken, SC

     John William Cunningham born October 15, 1930, in Des Moines, Iowa, died January 18, 2024 in Aiken, South Carolina.  His beloved wife, Florence Josephine Cunningham preceded him in death on January 10, 2024.   His parents William Clark Cunningham and Mildred Dean Cunningham of Grinnell, Iowa, and his two sisters, Mary Kathryn and Joann Dean also preceded him in death.

     His early years were spent in Des Moines until World War II.  His father moved from one Federal construction job to another building synthetic rubber plants which were vital to the war effort.  Just before VE-Day, the family moved back to Des Moines, Iowa from Texas City, Texas.

     John completed his public education when he and his parents moved from Des Moines to Grinnell, Iowa, where he graduated from Grinnell High School in 1948. The next step in his education was Grand View College for two years and then on to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota for one semester. The U.S. Army Combat Engineers was next including a tour in Korea. He met his future wife after returning from Korea while stationed at Camp Carson, Colorado, awaiting separation.

     The University of Iowa was his next stop. During the summer of 1955, he became engaged to Florence Josephine Clayburn and started to thumb rides from Iowa City to Denver as the G.I. Bill didn’t cover such travel.  John graduated in 1956 and spent a semester in Graduate School.  February 23, 1957, he and Jo finally ended their three and a half year engagement when he married Jo and moved to Oak Park, Illinois, where he started work with U.S. Gypsum Chicago in the Accounting Department. The rotation program as part of a management development program prepared him for future promotion in accounting and finance.  John attended night school at North Western University to further his education.  In 1964, he moved his family to Toledo, Ohio, where he was promoted to Assistant Controller for Toledo Scale Division.  Later he was promoted to Controller at Haughton Elevator Division and then to Controller of the Dodge Division in Mishawaka, Indiana.  In 1972, he moved to the Graniteville Company as V.P. Finance and Treasurer of the company.

     In 1977, he was chosen to attend the Management Development Program at Harvard sponsored by Chemical Bank of New York.

After a proxy battle at Graniteville Company, he left the company and joined Palmetto Federal in Aiken, S.C., as President and CEO.  He retired in 1990 and kept busy with local non-profits.

     Jo and he reared four children: Ronald Allan, Penny Ann, Jill Diane and William Clark II.  Tragically, Carol Denise died after only one day of life.

John and Josephine both loved the Aiken area and the people and spent their time giving back to the community by their participation with non-profits. His major efforts were spent with the Gregg-Graniteville Foundation, Hitchcock Health Care, Aiken Downtown Development Association (Founder), Aiken Corporation, Can Help (Founder), Community Development and Improvement Corporation, Aiken Housing Corporation and many others.

     Jo and he attended USCA sports. Basketball was their favorite. Not only did they enjoy watching the games, they had players in their home. Sometimes they had players’ families overnight so they could afford the trip to see their boys and girls play.

John and Jo often talked about the kindness of the people of Graniteville and Aiken.  However, it wasn’t until Jo developed Parkinson’s disease and John developed stenosis of the spine that limited their mobility, that the kindness of friends and neighbors became of major importance to their quality of life. Things like providing transportation to the doctor when family couldn’t, picking up the newspaper in the morning and putting it between the two front doors, preparing meals, helping with the garbage, and a host of kindness when needed.  This in the end is what makes the Graniteville-Aiken area outstanding but never gets promoted or acknowledged.

     In 1989, John was named Outstanding Man of the Year by the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce and in 2004, Grand View University awarded him Distinguished Alumni.

John is survived by his children and many grandchildren.

     He and his wife were members of All Saints Anglican Church.  

    The family will receive friends Friday morning January 26th beginning at 11 o’clock at Shellhouse – Rivers Funeral Home.   The funeral service will follow at noon with The Rev. George F. Alexander officiating.  Interment will follow in Historic Bethany Cemetery.

     Board members of the Gregg-Graniteville Foundation are Honorary Pallbearers.

     In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to the Michael J. Fox Foundation (, or to All Saint's Anglican Church, 110 Fairfield St., NE, Aiken, SC 29801.


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Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, January 26, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Shellhouse-Rivers Funeral Home Inc

715 E Pine Log Rd
Aiken, SC 29803

*Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Friday, January 26, 2024

Starts at 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

Add to Calendar

Shellhouse-Rivers Funeral Home Inc

715 E Pine Log Rd
Aiken, SC 29803

*Standard text messaging rates apply.


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