CHICAGO — Aaron D. Cushman, a pioneer of modern public relations, passed away on April 17 in Highland Park, Ill. He was 96.

Cushman launched his namesake Chicago firm, Aaron D. Cushman and Associates, in 1952 after serving in the military — first as a decorated World War II combat pilot and later as part of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War.

From simple beginnings (Cushman would hand his wife, Doris, press releases to format before he delivered them to newspapers and radio stations), Cushman and Associates grew into a thriving operation representing predominantly local clients, many in the entertainment business. The Three Stooges, Milton Berle, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis Jr., Gene Autry, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Sarah Vaughan were among the stars with whom he worked.

The firm grew to be one of the largest independent agencies in the nation, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Omaha, Neb. Clients included a wide range of Fortune 500 companies, including Motorola, Con Agra, Chrysler, Marriott Hotels, Century 21 Real Estate, Philip Morris USA, RGA Reinsurance, and Warner Lambert Pharmaceuticals.

The Cushman agency also promoted tourism for countries including Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Singapore, Cayman Islands and South Korea. Other tourism accounts included resort and hotel properties: Sandals Resorts, Beaches, and the American Orient Express.

An avid sportsman, Cushman handled PR and marketing for the Chicago White Sox from 1959 until 1975, when he became a part-owner of the team.

Cushman held a variety of top positions in local and national public relations organizations. At different times during his career, he served as president of the Publicity Club of Chicago, the Chicago chapter of the Counselors Academy and PROI (Public Relations Organization International). He also was a member of the PRSA executive committee and Society of American Travel Writers' board of directors.

Honors included being named the International Hospitality Marketing Association’s Man of the Year and an SATW Marco Polo, the organization's highest award. He received lifetime achievement awards from both the Chicago and Florida PRSA chapters. Cushman was a prolific writer who authored two books — A Passion for Winning and Public Relations: Impact on the World.

Cushman was married to his late wife, Doris, for 71 years. He had three children, 10 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.