CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Family and friends gathered today to say goodbye to Pete Cunningham. The 11-term state representative died last week at the age of 81.
Admirers at First Baptist West remembered him for wearing many hats. North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt recalls Cunningham's passion for helping new entrepreneurs.
"Minority business development was very important to him, but serving little people was the most important thing to Pete Cunningham," Watt said.
Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton described Cunningham as a fighter for the little guy.
Dalton said, "He fought to help those who needed assistance in this community and for opportunities for people. He gave them hope."
Cunnginham fought the battle for a number of community charities, and was a driving force year after year in raising money for the Anita Stroud foundation.
"He was always concerned about the community and especially concerned about people who didn't have opportunities, " that's how Cunningham was remembered by Reverend Ricky Woods of First Baptist West.
For more than a decade, Pete Cunningham owned and operated the Excelsior Night Club on Beatties Ford Road.
It is one of the nation's oldest African American Night Clubs.
While entertainment may have been the focus, under his watch it remained a place of political action.
State representative Kelly Alexander who now holds Cunningham's seat said the night club was one of the few places of intense community debate.
"At one point, it was one of the few places where you could get black and white politicians talking together on an even keel," according to Alexander.
Cunningham was a retired military man who served in both the Army and the Navy.
He is survived by his wife Carla and several children.
Cunningham was buried his native home of Union County.