Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Cunningham, Father William

Focus: Hope co-founder William Thomas Cunningham was born in Detroit, Michigan on February 20, 1930. He studied at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Seminary and later at St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. In 1955, Cunningham was ordained into the priesthood. He was a parish priest for five years, and then joined the faculty of Sacred Heart Seminary as an English teacher in 1961. In 1969 he was named pastor of the Church of the Madonna in Detroit. He also served as book review editor, and as a columnist for the Michigan Catholic for eight years.

Father Cunningham, living and preaching in the city, bore witness to the social and economic disparity of Detroit, and preached against “the malignancy of racism.” He was an advocate for civil rights, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march in 1965. In response to the devastation caused by the 1967 Detroit riots, which he witnessed first-hand, Cunningham joined with Father Jerome Fraser and suburban housewife Eleanor Josaitis to form Focus: Hope. This non-profit organization is dedicated to bringing about social justice through economic advancement, distribution of charitable services and job training for people of all races, classes, and religions.

Father William T. Cunningham died on May 26, 1997, and is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, Michigan.



Fr. William Cunningham, c.1970 - 2018.149.020

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