Richard Cunningham’s love for all things Elvis Presley paid off in September of 1997 when the Pendleton resident was honored for his volunteer work with the music legend’s favorite charity.
Cunningham’s collection of Elvis memorabilia included everything from jewelry to glassware, records to T-shirts and posters to postage stamps, and even a clock with swiveling hips. He was so dedicated to Elvis’ memory that he championed the singer’s favorite charity, United Cerebral Palsy of the Mid-South, holding charity auctions every year to benefit the group. In 1997, the 30th anniversary of Elvis’ death, the charity honored Cunningham’s tireless efforts by flying him to Memphis to be part of the celebration.
UPC representatives picked Cunningham up at the Memphis airport and ensconced him in a Germantown hotel, then squired him to different events each day during his week-long visit. But he didn’t visit Graceland, partly because he had already toured Elvis’ home and partly because “the lines waiting to enter were overwhelming large.” He also met several Elvis impersonators, including one from Mollala, Ore., and also Donna Presley Early, Elvis’ first cousin.
Cunningham returned home to Pendleton with many wonderful memories, and a need for some serious rest.