Hundreds pay respects to CDC worker found dead weeks after disappearing

ATLANTA — Hundreds of people turned out to pay their respects for Timothy Cunningham, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention commander who vanished and was later found dead.

The seven weeks of waiting and wondering what happened to Cunningham have been a hard burden for his family.

Terrell and Tia Cunningham, Tim’s parents, said goodbye to their son Saturday. He was remembered as an accomplished young man who was a Morehouse College and Harvard University graduate.

“As we celebrate Timothy’s life, we do come together in grief,” the Rev. Jasmine Smothers of Atlanta United First Methodist Church said during Saturday’s service.

Hundreds of his colleagues at the CDC and friends mourning the loss called Cunningham a treasured member of the CDC family, saying his work as an epidemiologist was invaluable in the CDC's efforts to protect the health of Americans. He was also a graduate of LEAD Atlanta.


“He distinguished himself as a leader of leaders,” Tia Cunningham said.

Cunningham disappeared Feb. 12, days after learning he was not selected for the position of branch chief at the CDC.

His parents said they had concerning calls with him prior to his disappearance.

“We were aware of some concerns at work that she shared with us and there were some personal issues, too,” Terrell Cunningham said.

Intense searches for Cunningham yielded nothing.

“We waited, we searched, we cried, we prayed,” Tia Cunningham said.

Earlier this month, his remains were found in the Chattahoochee River, putting an end to his mysterious disappearance.

The cause of death was drowning. There were no signs of foul play. Whether the death was intentional is still under investigation.

“We tried to recall the words we may have misunderstood and the meaningful looks we didn’t notice and the words we imagined that were on the tip of Tim’s tongue,” Tia Cunningham said.

But Saturday’s service was about the legacy Cunningham leaves behind.

The Cunninghams said donations can be made to Morehouse College in his name or to the homeless ministry at Atlanta's First United Methodist Church.