Former congressman pardoned by outgoing President Trump; now lives in Arkansas


Cunningham: "Every time you think things aren't going your way, they're going God's way."

Photo by Ninette Sosa

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Hours before President Trump’s term expired on Wednesday, January 20, he pardoned former California Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham, who now lives in Arkansas.

The former Vietnam War Ace fighter pilot served more than eight years in an Arizona prison for tax evasion, conspiracy, and taking $2.4 million in bribes. He was released in 2013 and moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he had some family at the time. He now lives in Pulaski County, has remarried, and said, “[he] appreciates the second chance in life.”

In a phone interview, Cunningham said he found out about the partial pardon in a 2 a.m. phone call. “Many people helped to make this happen. Newt Gingrich spoke directly to Vice President Mike Pence, along with several others requesting the pardon.”



Cunningham, a Republican, represented the U.S. House of Representatives 50th District (San Diego County) from January 1991 to November 28, 2005, when he resigned.

Randall “Duke” Cunningham. U.S. House of Representatives (CA) photo.

He was an officer and pilot for two decades in the U.S. Navy. He was a decorated Naval fighter pilot and the first Ace of the Vietnam War. After the war, he was the TOPGUN commanding officer at NAS Miramar, California.

“Check Six: The Duke Cunningham Story” is a short documentary after his prison release. It’s the story of a war hero, a former U.S. Congressman, and educator whose career came to a halt when he was sentenced to prison for taking bribes. 

At the time, this was his only on-camera interview. I did the documentary as my master thesis at the University of Arkansas in 2018. I was supervised by Journalism Professors Larry Foley, Rob Wells, and Dale Carpenter.

In typical Cunningham fashion, he joked that his wife’s name is Sharon Stone, not the actress. He is still a Missouri fan, but his wife, who retired from NASA where she trained astronauts, is a Razorback fan.

On Wednesday, Trump pardoned 73 people.

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