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AFS Review: In Memoriam

Keith K. Cunningham (1939 -2013)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jesse A. Fivecoate

By Tim Lloyd (American Folklore Society) — 

Keith Cunningham, for many years a member of the Northern Arizona University faculty, died on April 16, 2013, at age 76.

Born the son of two ordained ministers in Beardstown, Illinois, he originally intended a career in the ministry and served as a student pastor while he completed his studies. However, after receiving a PhD in folklore from Indiana University, he found himself reluctant to assume the peripatetic demands of the Methodist ministry, so he took a teaching position at NAU’s English department and remained there until retirement in 2010.

After Keith and his wife Kathryn moved to Arizona, he became interested in the songs and stories of Arizona cowboys and Native Americans, particularly those form the White Mountain region, and in contemporary legend.

His major works were the books The Oral Tradition of the American West, American Indians: Folk Tales and Legends, American Indians: Kitchen-Table Stories, and Two Zuni Artists, in which his text accompanied Kathryn’s photographs.

AFS annual meeting attendees will remember them participating in many of our gatherings as a pair. In a more detailed remembrance recently published in the journal Folklore (, Gillian Bennett noted that Keith and Kathryn met when they were small children and married when they were still in their teens. “Well,” Keith would say, “we waited fifteen years.”

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